Police state Chicago?

Fears emerge that the Chicago Police Department will jam electronic communication signals during some protest events:

Protesters will be flocking to Chicago for May’s G-8 and NATO summits armed with smartphones, video cameras and links to social media sites they’ll use for strategizing and sharing images of what’s happening — right in front of a police force known for responding with tough tactics.

Now a city councilman wants to forbid the police department from pulling the plug on the electronic communication during the events, taking away a tactic employed by authorities during a crackdown on democratic protests in Egypt and during protests in the San Francisco Bay Area last year.

We’re putting down a marker and saying this has happened in other places and we don’t even want it considered here,” said Alderman Ricardo Munoz, who proposed his anti-crackdown ordinance at a Chicago City Council meeting Wednesday, after which it was referred to a committee.

Munoz said he has no indication police are contemplating shutting down cellphone use or social media sites. A police department spokeswoman said Superintendent Garry McCarthy has no plans to take such a step.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office has said the same thing. But after he was asked Wednesday whether he was concerned that an ordinance could hamstring the police department’s ability to react to an emergency, Emanuel would only say that “Garry and Al (Wysinger, McCarthy’s first deputy superintendent) are working with the alderman on that.”

Of course, Chicago’s city government could always declare a state of emergency and use that declaration to evade any law restrict government interference with the local communication system. It is not unknown for the police to break laws when it considers law-breaking to be an acceptable consequence of a useful tactic.