CHICAGO (CBS) — When the NATO/G8 summits come around, Chicago Police horses will be outfitted with riot gear along with the officers riding them.
The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting the Emanuel administration is soliciting bids for “police horse riot gear and training aids” in preparation for the May 19-21 summits at McCormick Place.
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The solicitation specifically requests: leather nose guards — 22 inches long and five inches wide — with “impact-absorbing foam”; clear, wrap-around visors to protect the horse’s eyes; 17-inch-long rear leg shields and 11-inch-long front leg shields, both made of “high-impact plastic” and soft foam; and “training aids” for horses, including a “crowd control training ball set.”
The mounted unit has 30 horses, 30 officers and an annual budget of nearly $2.7 million.
Police Department spokeswoman Melissa Stratton said all 30 horses will be equipped with the new riot gear. She noted that the horses are “great crowd control tools” expected to provide “significant support to officers on the ground” during the summits.
“This is not the first time we’ve had [riot] gear for the horses. [But] we are updating the equipment. We have had horses attacked in the past. If the horse is injured, it puts both the horse and the officer at risk. This equipment protects both the officer and the horse,” she said.
Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Shields agreed that, “The safety of the horses is paramount to the safety of the officers” riding horseback.
The FOP asked for the added protective gear, based on what has been seen at protests at previous international summits.
“People have been known to throw bags of urine, human feces, and also inflammatories at officers” Shields said last week. “The ones (face shields) that were issued over a decade ago allow for fluids to drip through.”
Shields said the new face shields have rubber insulation to prevent fluids from dripping on an officer’s face. They would also protect against harmful liquid chemicals or acids.
The shields also fit over gas masks that officers might wear during the protests, unlike the face shields now in use.
But despite the purchases, the FOP has said police officers are receiving insufficient training for the expected protests. Shields said a single day’s baton training isn’t enough.
Police Supt. Garry McCarthy responded last week that officers who will be involved with handling the protests will be getting more training and equipment.
McCarthy, city officials and summit organizers have been playing everything close to the vest when it comes to summit security.
But Shields revealed staffing plans that give a pretty good idea of how many officers are being assigned.
Normally, the Police Department has three 8-hour shifts of officers working each day. During the summits, two of those shifts will work 12-hour days and the third will be devoted solely to summit security, Shields said.
“We’ve been told around 2,500 officers,” will be on that detail, Shields said last week.
The Chicago Sun-Times contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)