What went wrong? How chaos unfolded in downtown Chicago

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner WLS logo
Tuesday, April 18, 2023
What went wrong? How chaos in Chicago's Loop unfolded
The ABC7 I-Team took a closer look at chaos that unfolded in downtown Chicago, including a shooting near Millennium Park, over the weekend.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A former top Chicago police official gave the I-Team a blunt assessment of what went wrong as crowds swept into the South Loop, Michigan Avenue and Millennium Park this past weekend.

Chicago police had to scramble officers to the scenes, even though veteran cops said this was not unexpected on a warm Saturday night given the recent history on similar occasions.

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Gene Roy was chief of detectives at CPD when he retired in late 2016.

"First of all, was there a plan?" Roy said. "I mean, as a district commander, again, you're responsible for that district 24/7. Did you have a plan? Did you sit down with your leadership team? What are the issues on the afternoon watch, what are the issues on the midnight watch? How are things going?"

Roy talked about the melee on Michigan Avenue, the scrapes on State Street and police who appeared to have little command direction, no helmets and shields and helter-skelter communication.

He is concerned about patrol officers possibly being put on scene without adequate plans or direction.

"We have partners out there with the state police, the Cook County Sheriff's police, maybe they can help us if we need to do this, that's how you do it," Roy said. "You have a plan. You have the pieces all assembled. You have your toolkit. It's like a mechanic. You go to work with a toolkit every day."

And with Chicago just securing the 2024 Democratic National Convention, ex-chief Roy said the city needs to do better.

"You know, you have to wonder if somebody in Washington at the DNC is going to wonder if we made a bad choice here. You know, you have to wonder what the response is going to be. This is a critical time for the city. We have an interim police superintendent, we have this management team doesn't know if they're coming or going literally," Roy said.

So what's next? Ex-chief Roy said the plans have been used before, starting with CTA stations.

"You put officers at the key 'L' stops and you prevent people from jumping the turnstile and going downtown," Roy said. "You prevent them from starting the evening off, breaking a law. Turn around, have them turn around go home if they don't have money. Make sure there's a plan in place. Make sure that the people are there. Make sure that you're coordinated with other agencies."

Roy recommends pre-positioned police units in suspected hotspots and conservative tactics, but he wouldn't rule out cutting off CTA lines or raising bridges if necessary - tactics used in previous disturbances.

The elephant in the room is a severe shortage of officers altogether and retirements coming at a fast pace. A full response from CPD officials is posted here.

Full CPD statement on weekend unrest:

The Chicago Police Department's top priority is the safety and wellbeing of our residents and visitors, including our city's youth. The reckless, disruptive and violent behavior that was seen downtown this past weekend will not be tolerated. We encourage our young people to be safe and responsible as they enjoy their weekends, but anyone engaged in criminal activity will be arrested and held accountable.

We actively and continuously review open source social media and additional resources will be available to protect those who are visiting, living or working in the areas of large gatherings. Resources include an increased police and command staff presence at these gatherings citywide. Our Strategic Decision Support Centers (SDSCs) will also be monitoring all activity and police cameras to assist in the proactive reallocation of resources when necessary.

Additional security measures such as bag checks at beach entry points and the curfew for minors at Millennium Park will also be in place. CPD is also working closely with youth and outreach workers for when these gatherings occur.

We strongly encourage parents to accompany their teens or have them remain under the supervision of a responsible adult. We will continue working alongside our community organizations and leaders to provide safe spaces and alternatives for our youth across the city.

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