CPD Supt. Johnson on proposed use of force changes: Speak up

SHARE CPD Supt. Johnson on proposed use of force changes: Speak up

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson talks to reporters after speaking at the Union League Club on Tuesday. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

It’s an old adage meant to fill polling booths: If you don’t vote, don’t complain about who’s in office.

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, with noticeable frustration in his voice, used similar logic to urge people to share their opinions on a proposed overhaul of the department’s use of force policy.

“I have to emphasize that if you don’t comment on it — and you don’t look at it, and you don’t comment on it — then don’t be upset with the policy that’s put in place because you didn’t help craft it,” Johnson said Tuesday at a breakfast at the Union League Club.

Johnson announced the yet-to-be finalized draft in October, along with a 45-day window in which public comments would be accepted. The window shuts on Dec. 5.

People can read the draft and share their thoughts in an online comment section at policy.chicagopolice.org.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Tuesday that the number of online comments submitted had yet to be tabulated.

Johnson has spearheaded an outreach program to explain the proposals, and he hopes to have a final policy draft in place by year’s end. The city’s roughly 12,000 sworn officers would begin cycling into classrooms to absorb the new policies shortly thereafter.

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The proposed draft tightens the use of force policy beyond what has been set out by a U.S. Supreme Court decision and has an emphasis on de-escalation, the sanctity of life and using the lightest amount of force possible to resolve a situation.

The new policies also would limit the number of times an officer can use a Taser on someone to three bursts of electricity in 5-second intervals before resorting to another method of bringing an arrestee under control.

“I want to emphasize something,” said Anne Kirkpatrick, chief of the Bureau of Organizational Development, who helped write the draft. “Policies are guidelines. That’s what they are. They’re guidelines. In the end we have very few absolute shall nots . . . There are exceptions to guidelines. And we want officers to use good common sense in knowing when there might be a deviation from any guide.”

Proposed changes also would require officers to stop another officer who is engaging in misconduct when it comes to the use of force.

“We are going to require officers to actually intervene,” Kirkpatrick said. “You must intervene and stop the misconduct, not just report it.”

Johnson said judging whether officers could have intervened and weighing punishment for not intervening will be done on a case-by-case basis.

“Sometimes it happens in seconds where you may not have time to intervene,” he said.

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