2024 DNC

Chicago police continue training exercises as Democratic National Convention nears

The convention will bring thousands of visitors to Chicago as Democrats prepare to nominate President Joe Biden for a bid at a second term

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With about two months to go until the Democratic National Convention in August, Chicago Police are stepping up training efforts aimed at keeping convention-goers safe.

At McCormick Place Thursday, hundreds of officers donned helmets, face shields and riot vests for a hands-on field training session that lets them practice what they have learned. Chicago Police Supt. Larry Snelling says its equally critical for officers to respect First Amendment rights of those protesting while also protecting the interests of public safety during the convention.

“We will always, always protect those who are exercising their First Amendment rights,” Snelling told reporters who had been invited to watch the session. “It is important to understand that we have a city to protect, we have lives to protect. Our first order of business is the sanctity of human life."

Officers are getting practice with riot shields, bike patrol tactics and working with ambulances to extract injured people from crowded situations. As part of the training, they are also learning how to handle multiple arrest situations like those possible during a high-profile event like the DNC.

Captain Jake Alderden said the department has made changes to its mass arrest policy in the wake of the George Floyd protests. He said there will be at least one supervisor assigned to each vehicle used to transport arrestees and clearer rules for determining probable cause.

Inspector General Deborah Witzburg, who had been critical of police readiness for the DNC, said it was important to open up the training process the way the department did Thursday.

“Some of the areas of potential confusion identified in our report were addressed and were clarified in that training as a result of the department reading our report,” she said.

Every Chicago police officer will be wearing a name tag, a clearly visible badge with a star number and a body camera when they are assigned to the DNC. Captain Alderden said many see it is protection for protesters and themselves.

“I think if you polled all the officers here, and said would you like to have or not have a body camera? I think the overall entirety would be yes, I want a camera, I want a camera that is working and I want it there for the entire time,” he said.

The Democratic National Convention will run Aug. 19-22 at Chicago's United Center and McCormick Place.

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