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Chicago police unveil temporary foot pursuit policy

Supt. David Brown held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to discuss the changes and the new “balancing act” officers will have to engage in to protect everyone involved.

Chicago Police Supt. David Brown holds a news conference Wednesday about a new department foot pursuit policy taking effect June 11.
Chicago Police Supt. David Brown holds a news conference Wednesday about a new department foot pursuit policy taking effect June 11.
Manny Ramos/Sun-Times

Chicago Police Supt. David Brown announced Wednesday a new interim foot pursuit policy that officers will be trained on over the next two weeks before it takes effect June 11.

Brown said the policy is the result of an internal process that looked at other police departments across the nation — like Baltimore and New Orleans — implemented similar foot pursuit policy to create what he feels could be the “gold standard” in the country.

Foot pursuits will be allowed when there is probable cause for arrests, if a person is believed to be in the process of committing a crime or if a person presents a danger to the community. The policy does prohibit foot chases from taking place that stem from minor traffic offenses.

“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,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. “The important parameters outlined in this policy will not only protect our officers, the public and potential suspects during foot pursuits, but it also serves as a step forward in our mission to modernize and reform our police department.”

However, the ACLU of Illinois took issue with the “sudden announcement” of the new policy that fails “in serving residents of the city in at least on critical aspect.”

“The policy was developed without incorporating the ideas of Black and Brown Chicagoans who have been the victims of reckless foot pursuits and have stood ready to work with the city on a policy to restrict foot chases,” said Nusrat Choudhury, legal director at the ACLU of Illinois. “The only true path to police reform includes meaningful and deep community input in order to shape policies and practices that end patterns of violent policing that have targeted Chicago’s communities of color for generations.”

Brown stressed Wednesday this was a temporary policy that will stay in effect until a permanent one is introduced in September following weeks of community feedback and consultation with the Independent Monitoring Team that oversees the federally mandated consent decree.

Under this version of the policy, it would stop foot chases for offenses less than a Class A misdemeanor unless there is an “obvious threat” to someone. It also gives a supervising officer the power to call off a foot pursuit, but officers don’t need preauthorization from a supervisor to engage in one.

“Officers must ask themselves if the need to apprehend the subject is worth the risk to responding officers, or the public or the offender,” Brown said.

Brown said officers will have the ability to stop a chase if it becomes too heated and call for other officers to set up a parameter to bring in a suspect at a later time. He also encouraged officers to rely more on the department’s technology instead of running head first into a heated situation.

“Let’s let things slow down, let’s use de-escalation, let’s set up a parameter … let’s choose the right place to capture him,” Brown said. “Let’s use all of our tools, let’s use the helicopter, let’s use our POD cameras.”

The new policy comes as community leaders and activists have called on CPD to create a clearly defined foot pursuit policy in the wake of the police killings of 13-year-old Adam Toledo and 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez.

However, it’s unclear whether this interim policy would’ve prevented those deaths, and Brown wouldn’t comment on specific cases.

“I want to be careful in not conflating a particular case on this policy,” Brown said when asked about Toledo. “This policy is broadly speaking to the dangers of foot pursuits in general, and this has been a long time coming in law enforcement.”

Brown said there is “no data” that supports the claim that having officers not engage in a foot chase will somehow cause a spike in crime.