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Cost to deploy 1,200 National Guard members in city for 4 months: $54 million

Even if Chicago could afford that price tag, it first would have to exhaust all other resources at its disposal, including assistance from Cook County, suburban police departments and the Illinois State Police.

Johnny Leland dumps some shards of glass onto a trash pile from the aftermath of protests and looting on the South Side.
Johnny Leland is shown in June, dumping some shards of glass onto a trash pile from the aftermath of protests and looting on the South Side. Some Chicago aldermen want to bring in the Illinois National Guard to help with security downtown and in the neighborhoods.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

A four-month deployment by 1,200 members of the Illinois National Guard to stop Chicago’s never-ending cycle of gang violence would cost taxpayers $54 million and stigmatize entire South and West side neighborhoods for years to come, aldermen were told Wednesday.

Alicia Tate-Nadeau was the Illinois National Guard’s first-ever female general. She ran Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications under former Mayor Rahm Emanuel and currently serves as acting director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

Wednesday, Tate-Nadeau testified before the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety about a resolution calling for declaring a state of emergency in Chicago that could pave the way for a four-month stint by the Illinois National Guard to either relieve police officers working 12-hour days or protect neighborhood assets so local officers can respond to violent crime.

Tate-Nadeau said a four-month deployment by 1,200 National Guard members would cost $13.6 million per month, or $54.4 million total. That money is “not reimbursable” by the federal government.

Even if a city facing a $2 billion budget shortfall could afford that hefty price tag, Chicago would first have to demonstrate that it has exhausted all of the other resources at its disposal: hundreds of officers from the Illinois State Police and Cook County Sheriff’s office, and “mutual aid” from scores of suburban police departments.

Tate-Nadeau also warned of the limitations. National Guard members are limited to a “support role.” They can help create roadblocks and staff checkpoints, but only with “on-site assistance” by Chicago police. The citizen soldiers cannot detain anyone.

“Also, it cannot be overstated the visual effect of having armed, uniformed soldiers on the streets of Chicago. This could have an unintended effect and make people feel less safe in their communities, and could result in areas of the city becoming stigmatized for days, weeks, and even years to come,” Tate-Nadeau said.

Chicago Police stand guard on the Magnificent Mile and the Michigan Avenue Bridge over the Chicago River is lifted after looting broke out overnight in the Loop and surrounding neighborhoods, Monday morning, Aug. 10, 2020.
Chicago police stand guard on the Magnificent Mile the morning of Aug. 10. Behind them, the Michigan Avenue Bridge over the Chicago River has been lifted to restrict access to the Loop after looting broke out in the Loop and surrounding neighborhoods. Some aldermen support bringing in the National Guard to assist police.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot strongly opposes calling out the National Guard, pointing to the 1970 National Guard shooting at Kent State University that left four students dead and nine people injured.

On Wednesday, Police Superintendent David Brown was equally adamant.

He argued the National Guard “trains for matters of national security, natural disaster and major upheaval,” but few guardsmen “have any experience policing civilians or dealing with the violent crime” Chicago faces.

They don’t have “a standard set of rules of engagement on domestic soil.” They can’t be used to “free up CPD resources,” since they don’t have arrest powers.

“I firmly believe that Chicago needs to solve its own problems,” he said.

“If we had sustained civil unrest akin to what you see in Portland — over 100 days of protest — that’s more the National Guard’s role. They can come in and be a relief factor at checkpoints where we had to shut down downtown. If we had to do that over several weeks, have our critical infrastructure protected — our water treatment centers, our electrical grid sites ... hospitals and City Hall. We just don’t have those circumstances.”

Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) was incensed by the opposition.

Lopez said the support role described by Brown and Tate-Nadeau is precisely what he envisioned when he co-sponsored the resolution. He noted the city had “no problem asking 345 National Guardsmen to create a perimeter to protect the Central Business District” after the first round of looting in early June.

“Now, neighborhoods like mine — in Back of the Yards or Brighton Park or Gage Park or West Englewood — are being told that they have to basically fend for themselves because, what’s good for downtown isn’t good enough for them because of some lie that’s being perpetrated. It’s outrageous and should infuriate every alderman on this call, every resident listening to this hearing,” Lopez said.

“I have seen time and again where officers who are working a 12-hour shift … are assigned to a neighborhood asset and cannot leave. … Individual units are required to stay at a pharmacy or at a liquor store and cannot respond to a shooting three blocks away because they are assigned to maintain control over a neighborhood critical asset. That is something that our National Guard can handle. Our police should not have to sit there and babysit a liquor store while madness is ensuing in the neighborhoods all around them.”

Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st), who has served Chicago as both a police officer and a firefighter, argued that police districts across the city have been stripped of officers to protect the downtown business district “at any expense” — and rightfully so.

“We’re leaving our neighborhoods throughout the city with little to no police presence. To me, this is unacceptable. We need to bring in the National Guard,” said Napolitano, whose Far Northwest Side ward is home to scores of Chicago Police officers.

“If you’re gonna take police officers from the 16th District, down to 10 officers for 32 square miles, give me the National Guard, then. Put `em in my neighborhood. My neighborhood won’t be scared of it. They understand the concept around the city — how it brings a different feel. But at this point, we don’t care. We just want to be protected. We want to feel safe. We want businesses to come to Chicago. We want to be able to walk around our streets again. And we’re not getting that.”

No vote was taken on the Guard resolution during the three-and-a-half hour hearing. That comes next week. But it was clear the votes are not there.

Opposition was even stronger to the radical plan proposed by career prosecutor Robert Milan to flood the streets with state and city police officers, FBI agents and National Guardsmen and dramatically limit access to South and West side neighborhoods between the hours of 3 p.m. and 4 a.m.

“Have you considered the harm that this could cause and the perspective that it would bring to the Black community on the South and West side?” Public Safety Committee Chairman Chris Taliaferro (29th) asked Milan.

Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th) added, “I’m concerned about mobilizing or militarizing communities of color.”

Milan said he proposed an “extreme plan to deal with an extreme problem.”

“How can the optics get any worse than 2,800 people shot in eight months and 519 homicides so far?” Milan said.

“If you don’t like my plan, come up with something else. I just haven’t heard one.”