CPD unveils updated foot pursuit policy

The city enacted a temporary policy in June after the deaths of 13-year-old Adam Toledo and 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez, both gunned down as they ran from officers.

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A memorial for 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who had his hands up when he was shot by police, is seen in an alley near the 2300 block of South Sawyer Avenue, Friday afternoon, April 16, 2021.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The Chicago Police Department unveiled its new draft foot pursuit policy Thursday after missing a court-ordered deadline in the fall.

The Police Department enacted a temporary foot pursuit policy in June after the deaths of 13-year-old Adam Toledo and 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez, both gunned down as they ran from officers. Critics, however, said the policy was vague and would not have prevented those fatal shootings.

In a statement, the department said the policy was altered following input from Attorney General Kwame Raoul and the team monitoring its compliance with a federal consent decree that requires sweeping reforms. A 15-day public comment period on the draft policy closes Feb. 25.

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“As we developed the foot pursuit policy, we ensured that community safety and the safety of our officers was front and center,” Police Supt. David Brown said in a statement. “Safety remains our top priority as we implement transformational reforms like this foot pursuit policy.” 

The draft expands police supervisors’ role in ensuring there’s proper guidance and communication if a pursuit is started, according to the statement. It also seeks to address certain issues by providing examples of when officers should or should not begin a pursuit.

Under the proposal, officers are told not to pursue suspects engaged in certain Class A misdemeanor offenses unless there is a threat to the public.

The policy provides examples: An officer should not pursue someone running from a traffic offense, unless it’s for driving under the influence, reckless driving or street racing.

Foot pursuits are prohibited for minor traffic violations, like license or insurance violations. Critics have pointed out that the pursuit that led to Alvarez’s death began when he ran from officers who approached him at a gas station.

The draft policy also clarifies that officers cannot pursue someone “solely on a person’s response to the presence of police, including a person’s attempt to avoid contact with a department member.”

The Police Department in September announced it missed a deadline to reform the foot pursuit policy, saying it needed to collect more data to “get the policy right.” Police officials said the delay was encouraged by U.S. District Judge Robert Dow, who oversees the department’s compliance with a wide-ranging federal consent decree.

Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the ACLU of Illinois, which was critical of the temporary policy, said the new draft appears at first glance to be a “step in the right direction.” He specifically said the department’s acknowledgment in the draft policy that foot chases are inherently risky marks a “significant improvement.”

“There was never even a statement that recognized that these were dangerous, so that inclusion is progress and important,” Yohnka said.

Still, he raised concerns that people suspected of committing Class A misdemeanors can still be pursued in some circumstances. He also noted that the draft doesn’t appear to require the department to track each foot pursuit.

“Having that data that ... police officials or the public or advocacy groups can look at is really critically important. And that still is missing.”

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