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Chicago police change policy on mass arrests ahead of Democratic convention

Chicago Police Commissioner Larry Snelling praises the country's second-largest police department as fully prepared for protests ahead of the Democratic National Convention, including a new policy on mass arrests.

CHICAGO – Chicago Police Commissioner Larry Snelling on Tuesday praised the nation's second-largest police department as well prepared to handle the crowds of protesters expected during the Democratic National Convention, including new methods for dealing with possible mass arrests.

Law enforcement has been planning the August convention for over a year, with 50,000 attendees and massive protests expected.

“Make no mistake, we are ready,” Snelling said during a press conference alongside U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle.

Chicago police have received new de-escalation training, while about 3,000 officers are undergoing special training to “directly respond to social unrest and the possibility of riots,” Snelling said.

Proposed changes to how police handle mass arrests, which are still being worked out, include more on-site reviews by supervisors and subsequent debriefings to determine what worked and what didn't.

“Mass arrests are a last resort,” Snelling said. “But we know the realities of these situations, especially when the number of people we expect to see in Chicago is unavoidable, there is the possibility of vandalism. There is the possibility of violence, and we are prepared for that.”

More than 50 organizations are planning protests in Chicago, where the city is not issuing permits for demonstrations near the United Center convention grounds. That has led to lawsuits and groups saying they will march whether they have a permit or not.

The department has been in the spotlight for its handling of major events.

Chicago police generally received high marks for their handling of NATO protests in 2012, but were heavily criticized for a lack of preparation after the 2020 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, when nationwide unrest erupted. Last week, the city's inspector general's office said the department had made progress but still had work to do when it came to large events.

Snelling dismissed the report as inaccurate.

Cheatle was expected to tour the convention sites in Chicago and Milwaukee this week, where the Republican National Convention will be held in July.

When asked whether the guilty verdict against former President Donald Trump announced last week would raise additional security concerns, she said there had been no impact so far.

“We are focused on covering all possible challenges that may arise during this event and making sure we are fully prepared for them – and I am confident that we are,” she said.