On police foot pursuit policy, consider an officer’s point of view

A police officer does not always have time to balance the pros and cons of whether a pursuit is necessary. That time can be the difference between an officer’s life and death.

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On the anniversary of the shooting, Elizabeth Toledo stands with family members and supporters as she looks at the spot where her 13-year-old son, Adam Toledo, was fatally shot by a Chicago police officer during a foot pursuit in Little Village in March 2022.

Elizabeth Toledo stands with family and supporters at the spot where her 13-year-old son, Adam Toledo, was fatally shot by a Chicago police officer during a foot pursuit in Little Village in March 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

A policy that, if enforced, would curtail or eliminate the need for a police foot chase, is a simple one: Obey the lawful order of the police.

A recent news story featured professor Sharon Fairley of the University of Chicago, expressing a rose-colored glasses viewpoint claiming that some people do not want to have an encounter with or engage with a police officer — and that if they walk or run from that encounter, it does not demand that the officer engage in a chase.

But if they are not engaging in an activity that encourages the police officer to believe that a crime has, is being, or is about to be committed, then there should be no need for the average citizen to be afraid of a police presence.

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Now, I am not naïve enough to think that all police officers are going to immediately approach a situation with the decorum that evokes a sense of trust or calm that may be necessary to establish that peace of mind. However, we must realize that officers must remain on heightened alert to protect their own personal safety.

If they walk into a situation where the citizen is committing a violent act and the officer does not recognize the danger, then the public becomes outraged if serious injury or death occurs. Not only to the officer, but to others who may be in the area.

When do we hold the public accountable for violent encounters that arise from criminal behavior? While I do not condone the action or attitude of many of our law enforcement officers, I would like those who advocate a “kinder and gentler” police department to put themselves in the officer’s shoes for a moment.

Yes, officers have voluntarily taken a position to serve in law enforcement and the pursuit of peace and justice. But are they expected to do so without the fear that any normal person would have in the face of a potentially violent or fatal situation?

While I am in favor of a policy outlining criteria for officers to engage in pursuit of a criminal suspect, an officer does not always have time to balance the pros and cons of whether a pursuit is necessary. That time can be the difference between an officer’s life and death.

I am a 37-year retired veteran of the Chicago Police Department, having served in some of the most violent areas of the city. While I feel blessed to say that I finished my career without any serious physical injury. I tried to approach my duties with the respect and compassion due to anyone I had to encounter.

I can only hope that all of law enforcement conduct themselves accordingly. But we must recognize that the citizen has a duty to conduct themselves in the same manner.

Homer Walton, retired CPD detective, Flossmoor

Criminals: Just Run

Chicago cops are now prohibited from chasing criminals who assault someone and run. So the message to criminals is simple: Just run. You won’t be chased. 

We should change the police motto from “serve and protect” to “watch and deflect.”

People, please stop complaining about crime. When we neuter our police, that is the result. Expect more.

William Choslovsky, Sheffield Neighbors

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