The Chicago Police Department on Wednesday announced a policy on foot pursuits following the fatal shootings in late March of Adam Toledo and Anthony Alvarez, both of whom were shot and killed by officers who ran after them.
A temporary version of the policy will go into effect on June 11, but residents and community leaders will have an opportunity to offer feedback before it becomes permanent in September, police Superintendent David Brown said at a Wednesday press conference.
Some of the highlights of the new temporary policy include: prohibiting foot pursuits for minor traffic violations; not allowing officers to separate from their partners if they can’t see the person they’re chasing; stopping the chase if officers believe they wouldn’t be able to control that person; and making attempts to contain a suspect to a particular area by notifying outside police units as an alternative to chasing them.
The policy also called for officers to use a so-called “balancing test” to determine whether a foot chase is appropriate, assessing the seriousness of the crime against whether a pursuit could put the suspect, officer or any bystanders at risk of getting hurt. It also says that officers can only pursue people on foot if they have probable cause that the person committed the crime or believe that they’re about to commit one.
On Wednesday at police headquarters, Brown said officers had already been using using these strategies during foot chases, but now they’re codified for the first time in a written policy.
Officers could now be subject to disciplinary action if they violate It, he said.
“Just putting it in a policy and codifying it, I think, is a best practice,” Brown said. “We want you (officers) to be safe in doing your job. We want everyone to be safe based on how we pursue…We want better outcomes for our officers and for the people of Chicago.”
The week after the fatal shootings of Toledo and Alvarez, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced to reporters how the department would implement a foot pursuit policy by summer.
Her news conference that day, flanked by Brown, was held at a church in Little Village, the same neighborhood where Toledo, 13, was gunned down after a chase in an alley in late March.
The press briefing was part of an event aimed at calming the city ahead of the eventual release of video showing the teen’s killing.
Toledo was fatally shot by Officer Eric Stillman in the early morning hours of March 29 in a Little Village alley after a foot pursuit, touching off protests and demonstrations in the neighborhood. Various camera angles viewed at slower speeds appeared to show the teen tossed a gun and was turning with his hands raised when the officer fired a single shot into his chest.
Alvarez was shot and killed by Officer Evan Solano on March 31 in the Northwest Side’s Portage Park neighborhood. On the police body-camera footage released by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, officers can be seen running down an alley at first, then bearing down on Alvarez as they turn a corner onto a small lawn. Third-party camera footage that seems to be from a security camera from the home Alvarez was shot in front of shows him release a gun as he falls to the ground, and police have said a gun was found on the scene.
Lightfoot’s call for a foot-chase policy came four years after the U.S. Justice Department recommended in a report about CPD’s practices that it adopt such a policy.
A Chicago Tribune investigation in 2016 found that foot chases played a role in more than a third of the 235 police shooting cases in the city from 2010 through 2015 that ended with someone wounded or killed. In 2017, the Justice Department’s investigation into Chicago’s police practices noted that foot pursuits are “inherently dangerous and present substantial risks to officers and the public.”
During Brown’s tenure as the Dallas police chief from 2010 to 2016, that department developed a foot pursuit policy for officers following a controversial officer-involved shooting in 2012. At the time, that policy prohibited Dallas police officers from engaging suspects alone during foot chases, though it was relaxed a few years later.
But the Dallas foot-chase policy, which indicates on that police department’s website that it was revised in November 2018, says it’s to be used “as a training tool” for officers, and “no discipline will be associated with violations.”
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