Chicago police release final version of new foot pursuit policy
Officers can only pursue if there “is a valid law enforcement need to detain the person” that outweighs the dangers of pursuit
By Paige Fry
CHICAGO — The Chicago Police Department unveiled the final version of its new foot-pursuit policy Tuesday, in the making for over a year since Mayor Lori Lightfoot and activists called for such rules following the back-to-back fatal police shootings of two young people who were chased by officers.
The final policy won’t officially go into effect until all officers have been trained on it, which will likely be by the end of the summer, said Robert Boik, CPD’s executive director of constitutional policing and reform. The changes in the new policy from the temporary policy include clearer guidelines for officers, enhanced supervision and reviews of foot pursuits from the tactical review and evaluation division.
“Foot-pursuit policies have been part of law enforcement for over a decade now,” Chicago police Superintendent David Brown said at a news conference. “The impact on crime has been studied, and we can look back on foot-pursuit policies and see that it has made officers safer, it’s made the community safer in cities that have had this for over a decade.”
All officers will receive e-learning training on the new policy, and it will also be built into the department’s in-person 40 hours of mandatory training, according to police leaders.
At an unrelated news conference, Lightfoot said foot pursuits are among the most dangerous tasks undertaken by officers and that the new policy is important to get right so officers can pursue dangerous offenders safely.
“Fundamentally, what this comes down to is having a policy that makes sense. This has now been signed off on by the judge, the monitor, the attorney general. I think it’s a really solid plan,” Lightfoot said. “But really the devil is going to be in the details of the training. We’ve got to make sure our officers understand what the rules of the road are and that we’re providing them with proper training to protect themselves, protect the person they’re pursuing, and importantly, to protect the public.”
The policy also states that officers can only engage in a foot pursuit if there “is a valid law enforcement need to detain the person” that outweighs the dangers of the pursuit. Officers also must not start a chase or stop one for various reasons such as if the officer becomes injured or a third party is injured and requires immediate medical aid; if the officer is unaware of their current location; if the officer loses his or her radio or firearm; and more. The policy also states that if an officer is alone, he or she should not start or continue a chase.
Boik said the final policy includes roles for watch-operation lieutenants to review pursuits when an arrest or use of force has occurred. The tactical review and evaluation division, which since its creation has reviewed all use of force incidents, will now review every foot pursuit. Officers will also have to fill out a form after they are involved in a foot pursuit, which is aimed to improve data collection. Those forms are open for public comment and review.
Alexandra Block, supervising attorney at ACLU of Illinois, said that while she’s pleased that the Police Department adopted two of the additions that its coalition suggested — the tactical review and record keeping — the department didn’t go far enough in adopting the coalition’s other suggestions.
“Our position is that the foot pursuit policy does not correct the many flaws in the temporary foot pursuit policy that we had before,” Block said. “It allows officers to pursue dangerous foot pursuits even if the officers have no legal basis to arrest the person they’re chasing.”
Block said she recognized that Brown emphasized the portion of the policy that requires reasonable, articulable suspicion to pursue a foot chase, but she noted that still doesn’t meet the standard to arrest someone, which is probable cause.
“The policy also doesn’t really limit foot pursuits to the most serious suspected crimes,” she said. “Foot pursuits are so dangerous to members of the public, the person being chased and the officer that they should be limited to the most serious crimes.”
Block said the Police Department also did a poor job communicating with those who gave suggestions and didn’t explain why it adopted some suggestions over others.
According to a department spokesperson, CPD solicited community input throughout the entire process of developing the policy. A public webinar, two community conversations and multiple targeted discussions were held.
The first draft of the policy was launched in May 2021, about 2 months after 13-year-old Adam Toledo and 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez were fatally shot in separate incidents by officers following them in foot chases.
Officers have been following that temporary policy since then, but the department previously operated without a policy, which was a major point made in a lawsuit filed on behalf of Alvarez’s family in February.
At the news conference Tuesday, Brown said the department had long had discussions about a policy before the Toledo and Alvarez shootings, pointing out that the department had a training bulletin on foot chases.
“I would argue we should have went and put a policy in when we had that training bulletin put out. But again, before those incidents happened, we had the consent decree in place,” Brown said. “And we had further discussions on focus group policies and a lot of work being done by Executive Director Boik and his staff. We put in a temporary policy as you know, and now we have, finally, our permanent policy.”
It was not clear if the new policy might have affected the officers’ decisions to chase Toledo and Alvarez. The officer who ran down a Little Village alley after Toledo was largely alone when he did so. Both Toledo and Alvarez, who was shot in the yard of a home after trying to outrun an officer, were holding weapons at points during their pursuits.
Chicago Tribune reporter Gregory Pratt contributed.
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