CPD's massive safety plan to protect Chicago during the 2024 DNC

ByBarb Markoff, Christine Tressel, Tom Jones, Maggie Green and Adriana Aguilar and Chuck Goudie WLS logo
Tuesday, May 14, 2024 3:31AM
CPD's massive safety plan to protect Chicago during DNC
The Chicago Police Department will have less sworn officers but a massive safety plan for the 2024 DNC in August.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- When Chicago hosted its last convention in 1996, the police department was comprised of 13,032 sworn officers. This August, the number will be far fewer. There will be nearly 1,500 fewer officers available to keep the peace than in 1996.

The last official count of CPD sworn officers is 11,591. That is 1,150 below what the city is budgeted to hire.

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Retirement and lack of interest are some of the reasons the police payroll has plummeted. Just five years ago, there were more than 13,000 men and women in blue.

For Chicago's Superintendent of Police Larry Snelling, staffing for the Democratic National Convention couldn't be more crucial.

For Chicago's superintendent of police Larry Snelling, staffing for the Democratic National Convention couldn't be more crucial: 'In two words, we're ready.'

"In two words, we're ready. Our officers are still going through training. We have different tiers of training that we're putting our officers through. But we want to make sure that our officers are well-prepared to deal with whatever's coming. And I know that people have thoughts about our preparedness. But here's what I'll tell you: In short, with the Chicago Police Department, we're prepared," Snelling said.

A recent table-top exercise for security planners underscores what Snelling told the I-Team: CPD will have a lot of back-up in August.

That back-up will include the Secret Service and FBI, Homeland Security, Emergency Management staff, Chicago fire, state police, sheriff's deputies and local officers from surrounding police departments. The partnerships may help cover CPD's uniform staff shortage.

"We've accounted for the number of officers that we're down from the NATO event. We had more officers during that time. However, we've accounted for those things. What we're looking to do now is to make sure that during that week we have our officers ready, ready to go, willing to go, and we're going to do that through overtime," Snelling said.

The police operations director during the DNC is Duane Devries. His official title is chief of the Chicago Police Counterterrorism Bureau. The first assignment for some of Devries' officers will actually be in Milwaukee at the Republican National Convention, a month before Democrats arrive in Chicago.

Heather Hendershot is the author of "When the News Broke: Chicago 1968 and the Polarizing of America."

"It plays out as a partnership, obviously. The RNC is in Milwaukee. The chief out there is doing a great job of communicating back and forth with us. We're going to make sure that we provide a number of officers to help out with the RNC and he has promised to do the same for us. So, we'll be looking for some outside help. But obviously it'll be to supplement what we're already doing," Snelling said.

For those who live near the Chicago convention venues, there will be headaches. Last month, authorities went door-to-door to answer questions, and get a look at the likely security perimeter; and the areas where protest groups will be stationed.

"It's important to understand that our officers will be out there to protect everyone's rights, to protect everyone's First Amendment rights. But I've said it before, and I'll say it a million times: what we will not tolerate is violence. We will not tolerate the destruction of the city. We will not tolerate vandalism," Snelling said. "So, protesting is one thing. Rioting is the difference. If you come here to protest, and you just want to have your voice heard and you're doing it peacefully, we'll protect your right to do that. But we will not tolerate violence, and we are ready and prepared to deal with it."

Even though he's in charge of protecting a political convention, Supt. Snelling said he's "not concerned about the politics of it." Snelling said his goal is protecting people's rights; protecting the city and protecting residents.