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posted: 4/13/2013 8:00 AM

What Tony Blair's Elgin visit meant for local police

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  • Rick West/rwest@dailyherald.comFormer British Prime Minister Tony Blair speaks at the World Leaders Forum at Judson University's Herrick Chapel Friday night.

      Rick West/rwest@dailyherald.comFormer British Prime Minister Tony Blair speaks at the World Leaders Forum at Judson University's Herrick Chapel Friday night.


The 40 or so police officers at Judson University making sure Tony Blair's visit went smoothly were a far cry from the approximately 150 people who descended on the campus for former President George W. Bush's speech in 2011.

Elgin Police Department Lt. Dan O'Shea said the police contingent for Judson's third annual World Leaders Forum included members of Judson University Campus Safety, the Kane County sheriff's office and the Elgin department along with Blair's protective detail from London's police force.

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The whole effort started out with a call to the United States Secret Service, members of which advised before the event but were not present for the forum, according to O'Shea.

"It's a lot of work but it's kind of matter of fact because I do it every year," said O'Shea, who has headed up security efforts for all three years of the forum.

Bo Sisarica, assistant director of campus safety at Judson, said it would have been easier to start off with Blair or Mikhail Gorbachev, who spoke in 2012, and then work up to the security feat of hosting Bush, the most recent U.S. ex-president. But local departments were thrown into the deep end in 2011 and now are well-versed in organizing security for the event.

O'Shea said officers from Scotland Yard were fantastic to work with -- professional, organized and "extremely nice guys" -- same for the agents protecting the former Soviet Union leader.

"I'm very fortunate, from my own personal perspective, because I get to meet a lot of them," O'Shea said. "They're all the same across the world -- law enforcement. We all see it kind of the same way."

Kane County sheriff's deputies escorted Blair from the airport Friday afternoon to Judson's campus for the VIP reception, which began at 4 p.m, and they also escorted him to his destination after the forum. Mary Dulabaum, Judson's director of marketing and communications, said Blair went straight back to the airport after leaving the campus.

The security effort didn't cost the City of Elgin anything extra. On-duty officers with flexible schedules like those in the ROPE program or crisis team pitched in without the need for overtime.

With a global leader like Blair, the room for error in public safety is practically nonexistent. O'Shea said the effort was well worth it for a successful event.

"Judson, they have their own public safety, but we can't allow heads of state to come into the city limits and not protect them," O'Shea said.

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