By nearly all accounts – here in Chicago, across the nation, and around the world – the 2012 NATO Summit convened in Chicago from May 20 to 21 was a resounding success. This is true particularly with respect to how the Chicago Police Department addressed mass protests, the expression of rights protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, and the ability of Chicago residents, business owners and visitors to plan how they should best go about their daily plans during these high-profile, international events. After all, events like this Summit place key public areas off limits, disrupt normal traffic patterns at high-use times of day, and raise concerns among millions of constituents related to security.
In many respects, this success can often be unusual. Why? Because, in the majority of cases, when international events are convened in major metropolitan centers, there is an enormous communications gap or vacuum among three principal parties:
- Law enforcement and emergency agencies at the federal, state and local level that are focused on security and public order, jostling for space at a crowded planning table, and typically favor confidentiality and secrecy over public communication;
- Planning officials consumed with ensuring that all major event-related activities, guests and objectives are met at a high level; and
- Business associations as well as executives and corporate security directors who can struggle to get a proper audience with city leaders and planners and law enforcement agencies to voice their concerns.
Let’s put this global event in context. It was the first time that a NATO Summit has been held in the United States outside of the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. It was also one of the first times any major city in the world disseminated real-time information through multiple communications channels including cell phones and PDAs to Chicago businesses before and during the Summit – often on a minute-to-minute basis. As the security advisor to the 2012 Chicago NATO Host Committee, we are proud and honored to have been entrusted with that mission.