Chicago Police Told to Weigh ‘Risk’ of Pursuing Suspects in New Policy

Chicago police officers are being told to assess whether it is “worth the risk” to chase down a suspect in a new foot pursuit policy announced by the city’s police department.

The new policy will prioritize the immediate safety of officers and those involved in the pursuit, as well as members of the public, according to a new announcement from Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Police Department Superintendent David O. Brown.

Lightfoot had said in April that she wanted the department’s foot pursuit policy revised by summer, after videos were released on April 15 of the fatal police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo. Authorities later released video footage of the fatal police shooting of 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez.

The Chicago mayor said that the new policy serves as “a step forward in our mission to modernize and reform our police department.”

“Because foot pursuits are one of the most dangerous actions that police officers can engage in, we cannot afford to wait any longer to put a policy in place that regulates them,” Lightfoot said in a statement on May 26 in announcing the new policy.

In the new formal policy, police officers are required to “balance the risk” of pursuing a subject with the need to arrest them.

Officers and supervisors “will not be disciplined” if they decide to not pursue or discontinue pursuing a foot pursuit, based on a “reasonable assessment of an incident,” such as “if officers engaged in the pursuit believe they would not be able to control the suspect if a confrontation were to occur.”

The new policy also outlines certain cases where foot pursuits are prohibited. Chicago PD officers are not to pursue subjects for any offenses less than a class A misdemeanor, examples of which include aggravated assault, battery and domestic battery, and criminal battery. The exception is if the person poses “an obvious threat” to the public or any person.

They also will not pursue for traffic offenses that don’t endanger others’ safety. Police will also not pursue if “the immediate need to apprehend the subject is not worth the risk to responding officers, the public or the subject.”

The new policy is effective June 11 and is available for public comment through July 15, including via a public input form. The Chicago PD will also hold a webinar on June 1 to answer questions from the public and review the policy. It will also facilitate a number of community meetings in the city on the policy, including two virtual citywide community conversations. A finalized policy is expected to be completed in September.

“It’s essential the voices of our officers and community members are represented in policies that can directly affect them,” Brown said in a statement. “As we transform the police department through reform, we will continue to collaborate with our residents to make Chicago safer for everyone.”

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Mimi Nguyen Ly
Author: Mimi Nguyen Ly

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