Several Chicago-area police departments said they plan this year to increase the number of officers working Memorial Day parades and ceremonies nearly a year after seven people were killed and dozens injured during a mass shooting at a 4th of July parade in Highland Park.
Sergeant Joe Murphy of the Arlington Heights Police Department said the tragic events that occurred in Highland Park have the city taking a close look at its public safety planning for all community events, including its Memorial Day parade.
“Members of the police department, fire department, public works and village administration have been working collaboratively with the parade organizers to ensure that we are hosting an event with safety as our number one priority,” he said. Murphy.
One change that parade-goers at Memorial Day events may notice is an increase in staffing levels, he said. There will be additional officers present at events this summer and an increased number of supervisors, she said, but other updated security measures may not be seen.
For the past year, the community’s police and fire departments have been training together and focusing on safety protocols and active shooters for large community events, he said. The departments have reviewed reports detailing public safety responses to other violent incidents, according to Murphy, and the Arlington Heights Police Department has incorporated those recommendations into its training and operations.
Murphy said that despite the recent mass shootings, the village strongly encourages continued participation by community members in events like Memorial Day.
“The Town of Arlington Heights places the safety and well-being of its residents and visitors first,” he said. “We recognize the public safety responsibility of providing a safe environment for our community to come together and show our respect to the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces, particularly those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.” .
Commander of the Naperville Police Department. Michaus Williams said about 30 officers will be assigned to the city’s Memorial Day Parade for safety. He said police will block streets and check roofs along the parade route as they have done for years.
However, a new tool for the department this season is its tethered drone, Williams said. The tethered drone will allow police to identify potential threats from an aerial view, she said.
“(The tethered drone) gives you the advantage of being able to see something that doesn’t look right ahead of time,” he said.
The department plans to use the drone at most of its special events in the future, Williams said.
Other than this, he said the department’s approach remains largely the same as in previous years.
“We’ve always prepared for the worst case scenario because parades are certain types of special events that are vulnerable to any type of attack, whether it’s a mass shooting or any type of terrorist attack,” Williams said. “So our approach hasn’t really changed that much.”
The Park Ridge Memorial Day Parade will also feature a prominent police presence and other precautions this year.
“I think it’s safe to say that all local police departments are looking at public gatherings and parades differently since the Highland Park tragedy,” Park Ridge police spokesman Tom Gadomski told Pioneer Press in a statement. email. “That being said, we are taking additional precautions, including the additional presence of our officers throughout the entire parade route.”
The Chicago Police Department, Fire Department, and Communications and Emergency Management held a press conference in early May to discuss security plans for the city’s special events during the summer months.
Brian McDermott, patrol chief for the Chicago Police Department, said the department will address public safety concerns raised by the community around large gatherings this summer.
The city’s Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony will take place this Saturday at Daley Plaza. After the event, a parade will travel down State Street from Lake Street to Van Buren Street.
McDermott did not share the specific plans laid out for Memorial Day, but said the Office of Combating Terrorism, the Crime Prevention and Information Center, and the Strategic Decision Support Centers will monitor events like the parade in real time. to deploy resources in a timely manner in an emergency.
José Tirado, acting executive director of the Chicago Office of Communications and Emergency Management, shared that the city’s Summer Operations Center has been activated for the season.
He said the center facilitates departmental coordination when it comes to deploying violence prevention resources, and when the center is operational, daily calls are made between all agencies to share information.
Earlier this year, he said, the office launched an app that provides users with emergency alerts, weather reports and event information. During the event of an emergency at a large community gathering, the app will send out notifications alerting users to the threat.
First Deputy Fire Commissioner Mary Sheridan during the press conference also acknowledged Memorial Day as an unofficial start to summer and shared her hopes for a safe summer for all.
“We are looking forward to the warmer weather as are our residents,” he said. “We know that all Chicagoans want to get out and enjoy the beaches, the parks, the lakefront downtown, and we will be there to help ensure their safety.”
Caroline Kubzansky of Pioneer Press contributed.