Madison police chief shares how department keeps large events safe after Highland Park parade shooting

MADISON, Wis. — There are a lot of questions about safety and security at Madison’s many big public events after the Highland Park parade shooting in Illinois.  

“My heart, number one, goes out to everyone in Highland Park and everyone in the surrounding areas,” Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes said.

RELATED: Alleged Highland Park parade shooter traveled to Madison after shooting, officials say

Barnes said his department will keep up with its method of full staffing at events and working with the community. 

“I think the idea is always to be at heightened alert,” he said.

He said he always makes sure enough officers are stationed at each protest, festival, and concert in town.   

“One of the things that we do very well here is that we staff to our maximum level so it’s never an issue of decreasing staff, we can always add more staff,” said Barnes. “Everyone is empowered to make a decision, to use critical thinking if you see something that you think certainly rises to the level of suspicion in order to look at it.”

And MPD’S eyes and ears at events go beyond just officers.

“We have everything from the unmanned aircraft to people on the ground,” Chief Barnes said, “we have overwatch we have all of these things in place that our public doesn’t really see because we want them to enjoy whatever event that they’re on.” 

A recent uptick in crime caused the chief to promise more police in high visibility areas and plead for community support this 4th of July in Madison.

“Our officers and their special operations really paid great dividends,” he said of the effort.

RELATED: Madison police chief: ‘All hands on deck’ for Fourth of July weekend amid uptick in gun-related crime 

This partnership, he said, led to a good holiday here. 

“I mean it’s our model, it’s what we want to do absolutely every day not just on holiday weekends and I think it definitely shows that we are safe in Madison.”  

News 3 Now reached out to several event organizers Tuesday to see if they were modifying their plans at all for future events, including the Dane County Farmers Market and upcoming Arts Fair on the Square.  

Joe Loehnis, CEO of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra which organizes Concerts on the Square, couldn’t sit down for an interview but told us: “In light of Highland Park we have been in touch with our partners at the capitol and city and will be increasing the presence of first responders and law enforcement for tomorrow’s concert.”