Chicago Police Revise Foot Pursuit Policy After Criticism

Nearly 11 months after Chicago police officers shot and killed 13-year-old Adam Toledo and 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez after foot pursuits, department leaders announced Thursday they will revise the rules governing when — and why — officers can give chase.

After the deaths of Alvarez and Toledo prompted outrage and protests, police Superintendent David Brown crafted the Chicago Police Department’s first foot chase policy and promised it would protect the safety of officers, the public and those being pursued.

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However, Attorney General Kwame Raoul said the policy, which has been in place since June, was developed too quickly and was insufficient. The policy was also criticized by the ACLU of Illinois and community groups as too vague and said it gave officers too much discretion to chase someone they suspected of a crime.

Brown said in a statement that the foot pursuit policy was revised after input from Raoul’s office and the team charged with ensuring that the Chicago Police Department makes the changes ordered by a federal judge in 2019 after a Department of Justice probe determined that officers routinely violated the constitutional rights of Black and Latino Chicagoans.

That probe was triggered by the police murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014.

“The revised policy makes it clear that foot pursuits may only be initiated when there is a valid law enforcement need to detain the individual being pursued,” Brown said.

Toledo was shot and killed after he dropped a gun he was carrying and appeared to put his hands in the air before he was shot. Alvarez was shot in the back while attempting to flee police. 

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability has completed its probe of Alvarez’ death, and sent its findings to Brown. Toledo’s death remains under investigation.

Foot pursuits stemming from minor traffic offenses — which is what Lightfoot has said preceded the shooting of Alvarez — remain prohibited under the revised policy.

The revised policy also expands the role of supervisors to ensure there is appropriate supervision and communication if a pursuit is initiated, according to a statement from the police department. However, officers would not need pre-approval from their supervisors in order to conduct a foot pursuit under the revised policy.

It also “lays out clear instances in which department members will discontinue or not initiate a foot pursuit,” according to the police department.

Ed Yohnka, director of communications and public policy for the ACLU of Illinois, said the revised policy represents a “noticeable improvement” from the original policy.

The policy now recognizes how dangerous foot chases are to both officers and those being pursued, Yohnka said.

“That is noteworthy,” Yohnka said.

However, there is more work to be done, Yohnka said.

Foot chases should only be allowed when officer are pursing someone who poses a threat to public safety or has committed a serious, violent crime, Yohnka said.

Both the current and the revised policy bans officers from pursuing suspects on foot if they are suspected of a crime less serious than a Class A misdemeanor. That standard is too low, and would allow for too many foot chases, Yohnka said.

In addition, the police department should be required to document every foot chase in order to allow the policy to be assessed and evaluated at regular intervals, Yohnka said.

The revised “policy takes a significant step forward” and addresses his concerns about the original rules for foot chases, Raoul’s office said in a statement to WTTW News.

“Nothing in the policy will prevent police officers from pursuing offenders in a manner that is safe for both the officers involved and the public at large, and we believe it will establish guardrails intended to protect both the public and officers,” Raoul’s office said.

Members of the public can submit an online response to the revised policy until Feb. 25. The policy is expected to be finalized by the summer, officials said.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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