Chicago police brass will divert cops from neighborhoods to secure film sets, emails say

A prop truck from the NBC TV show Chicago Fire. | NBCOneChicago

Days after someone threw a suspected explosive device onto a downtown film set, at least two Chicago police commanders are being ordered to take cops from patrol duties to sit on TV and movie production locations Friday and Saturday, according to CPD emails shared with CWBChicago.

One of the affected districts, which is in charge of patrolling the Loop and surrounding areas, was already scheduled to have dangerously low staffing Friday evening before the order was issued, with only four sergeants and six beat cops scheduled for patrol duties.

CPD First Dep. Supt. Eric Carter ordered the changes Thursday in the wake of an incident on a film set in the West Loop on Monday night. Around 10:20 p.m., a man lit an object and threw it toward the set, where Justified was reportedly filming. Police said the “object did not explode and no injuries were reported.”

According to one source, the “object” appeared to be a mortar.

A second source said CPD resources are being diverted largely because the production companies have been unable to find enough off-duty cops to handle the work.

The city requires “police supervision” for some filming activities. That supervision usually comes through a city program that lets studios hire uniformed cops on their days off. But, the source said, fewer cops are volunteering and that’s putting productions in a bind.

A police spokesperson did not answer directly when asked why police resources were being sent to sets.

“The Chicago Police Department works closely with the city’s film and television community to provide safety and security for the production crews, as well as the communities in which they film,” the spokesperson said in a written statement.

Carter directed the Central (1st) District commander to divert two cops from downtown patrol work to sit in a marked squad car on a set from 1 p.m. Friday to 1 a.m. Saturday. He ordered the commander to send another cop with another marked vehicle to sit at another filming location from 8 p.m. Friday to 8 a.m. Saturday.

Also being told to give up cops for movie set security is the Near West (12th) District commander. Carter told her to send two cops in a marked car to sit at a different movie set from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday. She must send two more cops to sit in a marked car at a Chicago Fire set starting at 2 p.m. Friday. And another one of her cops will be sitting in a patrol car from noon to 7 p.m. at a Power Book IV: Force filming location.

Near West patrol officers handle calls in neighborhoods like the West Loop, Pilsen, Little Italy, and United Center.

CWBChicago received a copy of Friday evening’s schedule for the Central District. It shows only four sergeants and six beat cops are scheduled to be on patrol. There are 12 more cops scheduled to be on the street, but they are all assigned to fixed posts and won’t be available to handle calls unless changes are made.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com