Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy says his officers are prepared for whatever may happen with protesters during the NATO Summit this weekend and that may include using tear gas if necessary.
McCarthy has previously said the department would not use tear gas and he has questioned the effectiveness of it as a crowd control device. But now he tells FOX Chicago News it may be part of the arsenal if clashes escalate, with one important caveat.
"Tear gas will not be deployed without my direct, direct consultation and authorization," McCarthy said.
McCarthy is not expecting the type of violence that has marred previous world summits, such as what happened at the G20 Summit in Toronto in 2010. But he says Chicago is prepared.
"We're not anticipating we're going to be making a ton of arrests, however we are in fact ready for any eventuality that we come across, we're been planning for this for eleven months, we've been training for this for eleven months," he said.
McCarthy's benchmark is to have fewer than the 147 arrests Pittsburgh Police made during the G20 meeting in 2009. There officers did use teargas to control some protests, but McCarthy wants to avoid that type of police response.
"We believe we're ready for any eventuality is what it boils down to, we're hoping for the best, we're hoping that there's zero arrests, zero incidents… I'm the eternal optimist," McCarthy said with a big smile.
The city's top cop would not elaborate on what the worst case scenario might look like, and said officers have not been told to prepare for anything like that in particular.
"Absolutely not, why would we do that, how about we say it could be this good, were prepared, we're prepare to make arrests if we need to, we're prepared to facilitate marches without arrests," he said.
McCarthy reiterated police will be prepared to go wherever necessary to protect people and property. The ramp-up for that, first noticed this weekend on Michigan Avenue, actually began last week.
During Chicago's peaceful May Day protest march, the last big one here, officers did endure some verbal abuse, and they are prepared for worse this weekend. The message he's made clear to his officers: "We have to have thick skin, that's what it boils down to."