Chicago unveils foot pursuit policy following police shootings
Among its rules, the new policy bans pursuits for minor traffic violations and bars officers from separating from partners if they can’t see the suspect
By Herbert G. McCann
CHICAGO — The Chicago Police Department on Wednesday announced a new foot-pursuit policy that officials say makes the safety of officers and members of the public a priority.
The new policy comes in the wake of foot pursuits that ended in the fatal shooting by police earlier this year of Adam Toledo, 13, and Anthony Alvarez, 21.
Among its rules, the new policy prohibits foot pursuits for minor traffic violations, bars officers from separating from partners if they can’t see the person they’re chasing or if the officer or the person is injured. Under the new policy, the chase must end if the officer has lost track of their location or their surroundings, if there is too much distance or obstacles between the officer and the person they are chasing, and if they will not be able to control the subject of the chase in a confrontation.
In addition, officers must first consider if the need to apprehend a suspect is worth the risk to the officer, the public or the subject before a foot pursuit takes place. The policy also says officers can pursue people on foot only if they have probable cause the person committed a crime or believe that they’re about to commit one.
Police officers must activate body worn cameras for every foot pursuit.
Superintendent David Brown said officers had been using the strategies during foot chases, but making the strategy a written policy would make officers subject to disciplinary action if they violate it. The new policy will temporarily go into effect June 11. The public will have an opportunity to offer feedback before it becomes permanent in September.
“It’s essential the voices of our officers and community members are represented in policies that can directly affect them,” Brown said. “As we transform the police department through reform, we will continue to collaborate with our residents to make Chicago safer for everyone.”
The announcement of the new policy comes four years after the Department of Justice issued a report saying too many Chicago police chases were unnecessary or ended with officers shooting people they didn’t need to and two years after a judge signed off on a consent decree requiring the department to adopt a foot pursuit policy.
The week after the fatal shootings of Toledo on March 29 and Alvarez on March 31, which video shows were holding handguns right before or as officers shot them, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the department would implement a foot pursuit policy by summer.
“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 announcing the policy.
Police officials say officers will undergo training to familiarize them with the new policy. The training will focus on the responsibilities of the pursuing officer, including the considerations the officer must take into account before taking up a pursuit and what should be done during a pursuit.