The Chicago Police Department recently announced policy changes regarding foot pursuits that restrict officers from chasing suspects on foot unless there are special circumstances.
The new guidelines, intended to enhance community and officer safety, follow in line with recent vehicle pursuit limitations. The new foot pursuit guidelines will restrict officers from chasing suspects over minor incidents or who flee from confrontations.
CPD Superintendent David Brown said that the new policy allows foot chases only in cases where the officer judges that the need to detain a fleeing offender outweighs the risks involved in a chase.
Brown hopes the guidelines will keep officers safe.
“It’s new to the Chicago Police Department. It’s not new to law enforcement. … It’s made officers safer,” he said during a press conference, referring to several other cities that have made similar changes.
Brown explained the dangers inherent in foot pursuits and that limiting such encounters can reduce the need for “physicality” between officers and offenders who may be armed.
The policies also offer new training guidelines for officers to employ during foot chases.
“Because of the inherent risks involved in [f]oot [p]ursuits, the most appropriate tactical option to safely apprehend a fleeing person will differ in every circumstance,” the policy states.
The policy requires officers to judge whether the risk to oneself or the public is sufficiently great to justify pursuing a suspect. It also requires officers to have a valid reason for making the arrest.
CPD police officers must first ascertain whether there is reasonable suspicion that a felony has or soon will be committed, especially when it comes to felonies that threaten public safety, for pursuits to be justified.
In addition to felonies, police can also chase offenders of more serious Class A misdemeanors, such as domestic battery, drunk driving and street racing.
However, when it comes to more minor crimes such as driving with a suspended license or drinking alcohol in public, police will have to hold off.
The policy also changes the rules of engagement during foot pursuits, such that a police officer must end a chase immediately if a third party, such as a bystander, is injured and needs immediate medical attention that cannot be provided by anyone else.
Officers must also call off pursuits if they do not know exactly where they are or are unable to communicate with fellow officers for whatever reason.
“The safety of our community members and our officers remains at the core of this new foot pursuit policy,” Brown stated. “We collaborated internally with our officers and externally with our residents to develop a policy we all have a stake in.”
The policy comes more than a year after the separate shooting deaths of Adam Toledo and Anthony Alvarez, both of which resulted from foot pursuits with CPD officers.
Following the Alvarez shooting, Mayor Lori Lightfoot demanded changes to the department’s foot pursuit policy, arguing that running away from police does not always mean one is involved in criminal activity.
“People may avoid contact with a member for many reasons other than involvement in criminal activity,” the new policy explicitly states.