North suburban police departments, including are training to back up Chicago police for the NATO summit May 20-21 – and to handle any incidents that spill out beyond the city limits.
Since the Department of Homeland Security issued an alert for potential terrorismon the May 1, the anniversary of the bin Laden killing.
Regarding the NATO summit, “There’s concern throughout the suburbs – whether it’s northern, western or southern – that something could expand out of Chicago,” said Morton Grove Police Chief Mark Erickson.
“For the most part, it’s just a concern. There’s not a whole lot we can say about it, other than this event is coming to Chicago. It will probably stay in Chicago. But the north, south and west suburbs are kind of in a pre-preparing mode just to be safe.”
Niles Police Chief Dean Strzelecki noted some specific concerns.
“We're not expecting protesters, but it could be squatting,” he said. “They've got to stay somewhere, so they could pitch a tent in open fields.
“We're not saying we're not going to get protesters - but we don't think there's anything to protest here in the North Shore area,” the chief added.
First line of defense, as always, is the ordinary citizen.
"Obviously we'll ask the public to be aware of anything strange, like we always ask the public to do, but we're not expecting (terrorist acts),” said Strzelecki.
Suburbs likely won't get called to city
The proverbial pound of prevention is worth something greater for police departments.
“I think law enforcement’s job is to be prepared for any angle,” Erickson said. “I think they’ll (Chicago police) do a great job. The feds will do a great job. I think this will go fairly smooth.
“Chicago has the manpower to handle just about anything.”
Indeed, Strzelecki said CPD has told suburban departments they won’t get called in to help in handling demonstrations.
“But in law enforcement, you never know,” he said. “If something else happens besides NATO, it could be that they call us. God forbid if a plane crashes or something and they're busy with NATO."
Departments training for months
Members of suburban police departments have been spotted in training exercises throughout the area, including Skokie. Such rehearsals have been going on since the NATO summit was first sited in Chicago last year.
“We have regular meetings with suburban chiefs and CPD all year long. This is nothing new,” said Erickson. “In suburbia, we have been in contact with CPD for many years, and with the feds all along. We all meet regularly on a variety of issues. This is just another issue.”
Suburban police chiefs communicate
Erickson said he talks to neighboring communities’ police chiefs at least once a month.
“We have regular meetings and most of us are friends anyway,” he said. “For the most part, we’ve known each other for a long time. It’s nice when you want to bounce something off another guy, you’re not calling some distant chief, you’re calling a friend.”