Video: “Chicago Tonight” discusses the Chicago Police Department’s interim foot pursuit policy with Robert Boik, Arewa Karen Winters, Richard Wooten and Nusrat Choudhury. (Produced by Paul Caine)
The Chicago Police Department on Wednesday unveiled a new policy on foot pursuits it says will better prioritize the safety of officers, the public and those being pursued.
The policy outlines ways to avoid foot pursuits and alternative options, and includes considerations officers must take before beginning a pursuit.
“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,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot 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.”
Lightfoot and local activists called for a new foot pursuit policy following the fatal police shootings of 13-year-old Adam Toledo and 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez in separate incidents in March. Both were killed following foot pursuits involving officers.
Both incidents sparked outrage as Toledo had dropped a firearm he was carrying and appeared to put his hands in the air before he was shot, while Alvarez was shot in the back while attempting to flee police.
The new policy bans officers from pursuing suspects on foot if they are suspected of a crime lower than a Class A misdemeanor "unless the person poses an obvious threat to the community or any person," Police Superintendent David Brown said.
It also details tactics to avoid a foot pursuit, such as “continual communication with a subject.” Officers must also activate their body cameras to record pursuits in full.
Foot pursuits stemming from minor traffic offenses — which is what Lightfoot has said preceded the shooting of Alvarez — are prohibited.
Brown said officers will not need pre-approval from their supervisors in order to conduct a foot pursuit. But the policy will require officers to conduct a “balancing act” and consider safety before beginning a pursuit.
“Officers must ask themselves if the need to apprehend the subject is worth the risk to responding officers, the public or the offender,” he said.
Before the policy takes effect, officers must complete a mandatory online training to become familiarized with the new regulations.
The new policy will be made available for public comment from Wednesday until July 15, but it will take effect as-is on June 11, according to officials. The CPD said it will continue reviewing it and making revisions before a finalized policy is released in September.
The CPD said it has conducted internal focus groups with officers and plans to hold community meetings throughout the city, along with “targeted discussions” with community organizations.
“It’s essential the voices of our officers and community members are represented in policies that can directly affect them,” Brown said in a statement. “As we transform the police department through reform, we will continue to collaborate with our residents to make Chicago safer for everyone.”
In a statement, Nusrat Choudhury of the ACLU of Illinois said the policy "continues to fail" Chicago residents because it was developed without including voices of Black and brown residents "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."
"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," she said. "But this requires the City to be truly open to changing policies to reflect community experiences and needs."
Note: This story was originally published Wednesday, May 26. It has been updated to include our “Chicago Tonight” conversation.