CHICAGO (TSWT) — Chicago police officers will no longer be allowed to pursue people on foot simply for running away or committing minor offenses, the department said Tuesday, more than a year after the end of two foot chases with officers fatally shooting a 13-year-old boy and a 22-year-old man.
The new policy closely adheres to a draft policy put in place after those shootings and gives the department something it never had: permanent rules on when officers can and cannot engage in a activity that may endanger themselves, those they pursue and bystanders.
Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said he expects the new policy to make officers and the public safer, as has happened in other cities with similar policies.
“The impact on crime has been studied (and) we can look back at what made officers safer, made communities safer for over a decade,” he told reporters during the interview. a press briefing on the policy he expects to be in place. by the end of the summer after all officers have been trained.
Under the policy, officers can give chase if they believe a person is committing or about to commit a felony, a Class A misdemeanor such as household battery or a serious traffic violation that could hurt others, such as drunk driving or street racing. .
Officers will not be allowed to pursue people on foot if they suspect them of minor offenses such as parking violations, driving with suspended licenses or drinking alcohol in public. But they will still have the discretion to hunt people who they believe are committing or about to commit crimes that pose “an obvious threat to any person”.
Perhaps more importantly, the policy makes it clear that the days of officers chasing just because someone was trying to avoid them are over.
“People may avoid contact with a member for many reasons other than involvement in criminal activity,” the policy states.
The names of Adam Toledo, 13, and Anthony Alvarez, 22, who were armed when they fled police in separate pursuits in March 2021, are not mentioned in the press release announcing the policy or the policy itself. But those lawsuits — especially Alvarez’s — cast a shadow over politics.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot demanded that the department create an interim policy after the shooting, and the county’s chief prosecutor harshly criticized police over the Alvarez prosecution. It also appears that the police department was careful to prohibit this kind of foot chase.
Under the policy, Alvarez’s prosecution would apparently not have been cleared for two main reasons. First, when police chased him for a traffic violation, they knew who he was and where he lived, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx told reporters in March when she announced that the officers involved in the two shootings would not be charged. Second, officers are no longer allowed to pursue on foot those suspected of the kind of minor offense that led to the pursuit.
The policy includes a number of circumstances in which an officer must call off a chase, including a requirement that the chase must end if a third party is injured and needs immediate medical attention that cannot be provided by anyone else. . If the officers realize that they don’t know exactly where they are, which is possible in a chaotic situation where they are running through alleys and between houses, they must stop. And if they find themselves unable to communicate with other agents, because they drop their radios or for some other reason, they must stop.
The policy also reminds officers that they or their supervisors will not be criticized or disciplined for deciding not to pursue on foot or to call off one – the importance of which a law professor who studied the department and was part of a legal team that successfully fought the city over its refusal to release video of a police shooting that cannot be overstated.
“How do you change the culture that you have to hunt these bad guys no matter what, no matter how dangerous it is to everyone around you?” said Craig Futterman, a law professor at the University of Chicago. “You create policies that ensure that you cannot be disciplined, chewed up, criticized for following a policy and not engaging in an inherently dangerous act.”
Officers are also prohibited from instigating chases, for example by employing a tactic in which they speed in their squad cars towards a group of people, stop suddenly and jump “with the intention of arresting anyone in the fleeing group”.
The city had been waiting for a policy long before the Toledo and Alvarez shootings.
Five years ago, the US Department of Justice released a scathing report claiming that too many police chases in the city were pointless or ended in officers shooting people they didn’t have to shoot. And three years ago, a judge signed a consent decree that included a requirement to adopt a foot pursuit policy.
The city also had plenty of evidence about the dangers of foot chases, including a Chicago Tribune investigation that found that a third of police shootings in the city from 2010 to 2015 involved someone injured or killed in a foot chase. foot.
Police officials denied any suggestion that they had been dragging their feet, saying the department had met established deadlines.
But Chicago hasn’t taken the lead on the issue, with other major cities such as Baltimore, Philadelphia and Portland, Oregon having already implemented foot chase policies and Futterman said the department has resisted this. interlocking for years despite knowing how dangerous foot chases could be. .
Still, he praised the department.
“Lives have been lost and to have one (foot chase policy) and to have one that has teeth… will save lives,” he said.