Local cops mobilized for NATO summit found little violence
By Dave Gathman email@example.com May 27, 2012 5:10PM
Below, ILEAS mobile field force members, along with an ILEAS SWAT contingent, work with the United States Secret Service in safeguarding the inner perimeter at Mc Cormick Place during the NATO Summit. | Photo courtesy of Matt Udelhoven, Elgin Police Department
Updated: July 3, 2012 9:31AM
ELGIN — Now it can be told — what the 50 police officers from Kane and McHenry counties did while they were mobilized to help control crowds during last week’s NATO conference in Chicago.
And the answer is “not much,” at least if you’re talking about violent 1968-style confrontations and tear-gassings and head-bashings. The Fox Valley’s loaned-out men in blue worked as much as 17 hours a day, but ran into little trouble, according to Elgin Police Sgt. Matt Udelhoven, commander of the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System (ILEAS) Mobile Field Force.
Many of the group spent much of that Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday wearing their “turtle suit” body armor, helmets and face shields. But they never had to use the various Roman Army-like maneuvers they practiced last fall at the old Sherman Hospital site in Elgin to push crowds aside, arrest protesters, etc.
Udelhoven said the team was housed in dorms at the University of Illinois-Chicago, where classes had ended for the year. Drawn from municipal police forces and sheriff’s departments from all over the two counties, the Kane-McHenry group was divided into four or five task forces “kind of spread all over the city,” he said.
Udelhoven said one team wearing riot gear, plus a SWAT team, was assigned to work alongside the Secret Service at McCormick Place, where the NATO dignitaries held their meetings. Another group, wearing “soft uniforms” with baseball caps, helped guard the Metra station under McCormick Place.
Meanwhile, other teams rode buses loaned by the Chicago Transit Authority, moving from one possible trouble spot to another, often in reaction to demonstrations and protests. These wore soft uniforms but had their riot gear aboard the buses for use as needed.
A handful of tense confrontations between protesters and Chicago police were reported by the media, including some alleged head-beatings and some alleged use of red paint by protesters to fake injuries. But Udelhoven said the Fox Valley officers saw none of that.
“We had contact with a few protesters but they were all very law-abiding. In fact, some thanked us for letting their voices be heard,” he said.
On the other hand, the sergeant added, “it was the Chicago Police Department’s show. They wanted to be in the front lines, with us (suburban and out-of-state police) as a reserve force. Each of our groups had a Chicago police liaison with them, a deputy chief or a captain.”
“The Crosstown Classic baseball series between the Cubs and the White Sox was going on that weekend, too, so there were a lot of families going to and from the ball game,” Udelhoven added. “A lot of them shook our hands and thanked us for being there.”
He was asked to compare the NATO experience to the group’s deployments with the G-20 world leaders’ summit in Pittsburgh in 2009 and the Republican National Convention in St. Paul in 2008.
“In St. Paul, we were wearing soft clothes, helping guard the convention with the Secret Service. In Pittsburgh we were wearing our turtle suits. Here we did a little of each,” Udelhoven said.
“For the G-20, we were housed at the University of Pittsburgh, but school was still in session, and protesters got some of the students involved, so they had some large crowds there. When there’s 22,000 people together, it’s hard to tell the good protesters from the bad ones.”
At UIC last weekend, Udelhoven said, it was especially interesting to mix with the North Carolina officers, since Charlotte will host the Democratic National Convention in September, and there is a good chance the ILEAS team will be mobilized to help protect that. But he said that may not be known for sure until as little as a week before the event.