Suburban police brace for NATO overflow
Franklin Park patrolman Tom Henniger (right), who has crowd-control training from the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System, coaches a dozen officers as they practice rescue maneuvers in the Park District of Franklin Park parking lot as part of their NATO
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Updated: June 4, 2012 8:04AM
Police chiefs in Western Cook County continue to prepare for the May NATO summit.
“I’m not sure what the level of activity will be,” said Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel. “It’s better to be prepared.”
Weitzel is also chairman of the West Suburban Chiefs of Police, which represents 34 communities. He spoke to suburban officials recently at the West Central Municipal Conference meeting in Brookfield about possible suburban spillover from NATO.
The NATO summit is scheduled for May 20-21. Officials from around the world will gather. Though the agenda has not been finalized, according to the NATO website, officials will likely discuss such matters as how the military can leave Afghanistan, dealing with non-NATO members and how member countries can do more with declining military budgets.
The NATO summit will take place at McCormick Place in Chicago. The U.S. Secret Service will handle security for international representatives. Chicago police will respond to protests or other events within city borders.
In Franklin Park, police have been training for the last few weeks, Chief Mike Witz said.
“It has to do with crowd control,” Witz said. “A refresher on equipment, a refresher on policies and procedures, policies on use of force.”
Some Franklin Park officers will join other suburban officers who specialize in activities like barricading subjects, crowd control, demonstrations and protests, Witz said.
Northlake Police Chief Dennis Koletsos did not return calls as of press time.
Deputy chiefs from the suburbs will be in Chicago during the summit, keeping an eye out for anything that could impact their municipalities. For example, overloaded Metra trains heading to the suburbs, Weitzel said.
Police chiefs will remain in their towns. West suburban police departments may increase shifts up to 12 hours or pull in off-duty officers, although for smaller departments that won’t be much of an increase in manpower. Riverside, for example, has 19 sworn officers, Weitzel said.
Weitzel said he’s heard estimates of 10,000 to 50,000 protestors, although no one will know exact numbers until the summit.
Whatever the number, it’s unclear whether any protestors will travel to the west suburbs. Peter Silvestri, Cook County commissioner and Elmwood Park village president, figures protestors aim to stay near the summit where they’ll get the most attention.
Weitzel agrees, though he said some police chiefs are concerned protestors will travel to the suburbs to camp out in public parks.
Absent the violation of any laws other than staying after park hours, that would leave suburban police with a choice.
“Do you want to take on a confrontation or let that go?” Weitzel asked.