Thursday, June 08, 2017

CWB Talks: Year-Long Investigation Of Private Security Began With Unanswered Questions About Pride Parade

Chicago Pride Parade marchers on Broadway in 2016 | CWBChicago reader
Our year-long investigation of private security patrols in Lakeview was never meant to be.

It all started by chance with this email to 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney on the day after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando last June:


Since 49 people had just been shot to death at a gay nightclub in Florida, we thought the questions were valid and of public interest.
1) How does the city verify that parade organizers will actually deploy all of the off-duty police officers that they say they will? 
2) How does the city verify that the persons hired as off-duty officers are, in fact, certified police officers?
Before the Pulse shooting, parade organizer Richard Pfeiffer repeatedly said he'd hire 160 off-duty cops | Grab 
Alderman Tom Tunney’s staff politely and promptly provided a response from Chicago Special Events Management, a private contractor who handles security for the Pride Parade and Pride Fest:
“Our security service is license [sic], bonded and insured, same group that does the neighborhood security for the Chicago Cubs.  Most are permitted for carrying firearms, a few are certified...but non carrying firearms.  All are certified security personnel.”
You may have noticed that they answered questions that we didn’t ask.  So we went back and politely restated our two questions again.
1) How does the city verify that parade organizers will actually deploy all of the off-duty police officers that they say they will? 
2) How does the city verify that the persons hired as off-duty officers are, in fact, certified police officers?
Tunney aide Chris Jessup suggested that we contact parade organizer Richard Pfeiffer and Special Events Management directly.

We did.

Neither of them responded. And Tunney’s office has never replied to any email on any topic that we’ve sent since. None. Not one.

However, officials immediately stopped saying 160 off-duty police and started saying "160 off-duty police and other security personnel."

Our curiosity was piqued.

Tom Tunney (3rd from left) at the city's pre-Pride Parade press conference in 2016 | Chicago Patch
When the Cubs headed to the playoffs a few months later, the city and local officials again told the public that swarms of off-duty police officers would be in the area.

One night, during a home playoff game, two of us found ourselves sitting next to a couple of these “off-duty officers" at iHop in Boystown.

They both wore tactical vests with embroidered badges that looked like Chicago police stars that were mostly obscured by the yellow reflective vests that they wore on top.

They had walkie-talkies with the handpieces drawn up to their shoulders, and local police calls could be heard emanating from their radio speakers. One had a Chicago police checkerboard hatband wrapped around the radio cord. He looked to be all of 21-years-old.

The other had a CPD checkerboard winter cap in his pocket.

As our editors ate their pancakes and patty melt, the two “off-duty officers” began taking pictures of each other. They were behaving like children.

There was no way that they were police officers. None.

We started talking to some real cops. We started talking with security guards as they walked Boystown and Wrigleyville. We started talking to a lot of people.

Two months ago, as the series’ scope and topics began to gel, we approached a professional, seasoned journalist and convinced him to advise us on our work. We needed a “red team” to help us see what we were missing and to make sure we did everyone right.

The results of our efforts were posted this week.

Yet, a year later, neither the city nor the Chicago Pride Parade organizer nor anyone else will tell us…
1) How does the city verify that parade organizers will actually deploy all of the off-duty police officers that they say they will? 
2) How does the city verify that the persons hired as off-duty officers are, in fact, certified police officers?  
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