Chicago Police Propose New Use-Of-Force Policies Aimed At Reducing Controversies
October 7, 2016
The Chicago Police Department, pressured by a U.S. Justice Department investigation and public outrage over police misconduct, has unveiled proposed policy changes aimed at cutting down on the kinds of controversial uses of force that have plagued the city.
The draft policies released Friday would further limit when officers can shoot fleeing people, restrict the number of times officers can Taser arrestees and compel officers to use the lightest force possible in any situation. The draft rules would expand on guidelines now in effect, some of which are comparatively vague.
The proposed changes are the latest aftershock of the court-ordered release in November of video of white Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting African-American teenager. Laquan McDonald 16 times. The video — showing Van Dyke shooting McDonald as he walked away from officers with a knife in his hand — touched off sustained protests fueled by decades of frustration among many black Chicagoans over use of force and the failure to discipline officers.
The Justice Department is investigating whether Chicago police have systematically abused citizens, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel has worked to enact changes to policing and discipline aimed at getting ahead of reforms that federal authorities might see
The mayor is in a tight political spot; he’s proposed changes to a Police Department with a long history of scandal, but he’s also contending with surging gun violence seen widely as a consequence of police ratcheting back their aggressiveness to avoid criticism or punishment.
Experts lauded the proposed changes but noted that other police departments have been making similar reforms for years while Chicago has endured a string of policing scandals and racked up tens of millions of dollars in lawsuits over alleged police abuse.
“Welcome to the 21st century,” said Geoffrey Alpert, a professor of criminal justice at the University of South Carolina. “This is a step in the right direction. Good for them. It’s just a day late and millions of dollars short.”
It remains unclear what version of the rules will ultimately take effect, and the department has provided itself room to change course if any of the proposals prove controversial. Meanwhile, the enforcement of any new rules will hinge in part on the success of promised improvements to the city’s frequently ineffective police disciplinary system.
The policies would tighten the rules on shooting fleeing people, holding that officers can’t shoot unless that person poses an “immediate threat.” The current rules allow an officer to fire on anyone who has committed or attempted a felony using force, and experts said the new rules would go beyond U.S. Supreme Court case law.
The department also would ban officers from triggering more than three shocks from their Tasers before trying something else.
Dovetailing with the department’s new training on defusing tense incidents, officers also would be compelled to turn to “force mitigation” and wait out or move further from potentially violent people. Officers also would be called on to immediately seek medical aid for people injured by police and “comport themselves in a manner that conveys the gravity of any use of force.”
The department set up a website for officers and the public to comment on the draft rules at policy.chicagopolice.org. After 45 days, police officials will review the feedback, Superintendent Eddie Johnson said at a news conference.
Though inviting public comment on a policy change is new for the department, the city has often invited public comment on proposed policies. While the comment period might discourage the perception that city officials are acting unilaterally, nothing binds Johnson to bend to the demands of officers or the public.
The department hopes to adopt the rules by the end of the year and then train the city’s roughly 12,000 sworn officers by spring, a potential change for a department that has sometimes shifted policy with little fanfare and has previously provided scant training to officers after the academy.
The proposed rules are geared toward giving options to officers to avoid using heavy force, even if state law or legal precedent would allow it, Johnson said.
“Can you use force? Yes. But should you? Maybe not. There may be other alternatives that you can utilize so that you don’t have to use deadly force,” Johnson told reporters.
Dean Angelo Sr., president of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police lodge, said police have used de-escalation tactics for years. The draft rules, he said, are the department’s reaction to critics who know little about police work.
“Until they put on a uniform and get into that car, they have no idea,” he said.
The ability of any new policy to bring change will depend partly on enforcement, and aldermen on Wednesday passed Emanuel’s plan to replace the city’s beleaguered Independent Police Review Authority with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability. Recent Tribune investigations have shown IPRA has been sluggish and reluctant to find officers at fault, even when compelling evidence suggested wrongdoing. COPA is promised to have more funding and greater authority.
Sharon Fairley, the former federal prosecutor Emanuel appointed to run IPRA as the policing controversy erupted, called on the department this summer to revise its use of force policies, including in ways similar to the provisions in the new draft rules. Tightening the rules would give the city’s disciplinary authorities greater leeway to suspend or fire officers after shootings — a step the city has rarely taken.
The new policies prominently state that the department’s rules are stricter than Supreme Court case law on police uses of force, specifying that officers use the lightest necessary force when attempts to defuse the situation fail. Mandatory de-escalation training started last month for all department officers.
The draft rules hold that an officer must intervene if another officer is wrongly using force. Though the department already has a rule against lying, the draft rules specify that officers must truthfully describe uses of force. In the McDonald shooting, numerous officers stood by as Van Dyke fired again and again, and the department has moved to fire several officers whose reports clashed with the account captured on the video.
Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, credited the draft rules for adopting widely accepted best practices. He called the proposed policy “impressive and state of the art.”
Alpert, however, said departments have been going beyond “the minimal Constitutional floor” in their use of force rules for decades. He said other cities have adopted new force rules because of forward-thinking leadership — or because they were forced to change by federal authorities investigating past abuses.
“This is something Chicago should have done years ago,” Alpert said. “These aren’t reforms that are going to make anyone say, ‘Wow, this is a really taking the bull by the horns.'”
Chicago Police Department Drafts New Use-Of-Force Policy; Seeks Public Input
The Chicago Police Department’s current Use of Force Guidelines have been in effect since 2002. They are based on the Illinois Compiled Statutes (720 ILCS 5/7) governing a peace officer’s use of force to prevent escape and make an arrest, along with the United States Supreme Court ruling in Graham v. Connor, which provides that an officer’s use of force must be objectively reasonable in light of the particular circumstances faced by the officer. Since 2002, numerous specific revisions have been made; however, there has not been a revision of the policy in its entirety.
Recently, the Chicago Police Department has reviewed, evaluated, and revised its current Use of Force Guidelines to ensure the policy meets both the needs of the community and the Department. The Department must ensure it has a policy that is unbiased, provides for increased accountability and transparency, properly serves the community, and meets the community’s expectations, while being consistent with the fundamental purposes of law enforcement. With that goal in mind, the Chicago Police Department has revised the Use of Force Guidelines based on national best practices, including the concepts outlined in the Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) 2016 report entitled “Guiding Principles on Use of Force.”
The “Sanctity of Life” is placed as the Department’s highest priority for the proposed revisions to the Chicago Police Department’s Use of Force Guidelines. In all aspects of their conduct, the Department expects its members to act with the foremost regard for the preservation of human life and the safety of all persons. This includes acting in a manner that conveys the gravity of any use of force, offering medical aid to those injured in use of force incidents, including suspects injured by officers (commensurate with their training, experience, and available equipment), and intervening and reporting on a subject’s behalf when observing force being used in violation of Department policy. The Department remains committed to prohibiting and preventing the use of unwarranted or excessive physical force and expects its members to demonstrate the highest degree of ethical behavior and professional conduct at all times. Officers are required to engage the public with professionalism and respect the dignity of every person in carrying out their law enforcement duties, while ensuring that gender, race, ethnicity, or any other protected characteristics do not influence any decision on the use of force, including the amount and type of force used.
Through this policy, the Department imposes restrictions on the use of force that are significantly stricter than those set forth by statute and permitted by Graham v. Connor. Officers are expected to use the least amount of force necessary based on the totality of the circumstances and will only resort to physical force when no reasonably effective alternative appears to exist. The use of deadly force is only authorized to prevent an immediate threat of death or great bodily harm posed to officers or another person. Furthermore, officers may only draw and display their firearm when they have the reasonable belief that it is necessary for the officer’s safety or the safety of others. When feasible under the circumstances, police officers will give the suspect a verbal warning before using deadly force. Officers must be mindful of the impact that even a reasonable use of force may have on those who observe but are not immediately involved in the incident and they must be cognizant of the perception or the perceived reasonableness of their use of force.
The Department remains committed to having its officers use the principles of Force Mitigation to de-escalate potential use of force incidents and requires officers to develop and display the skills and abilities that allow resolution of confrontations without resorting to force. Officers are required to determine if the seriousness of the situation requires an immediate response or whether other reasonable alternatives may be employed, such as use of communication and verbal control techniques or making advantageous use of time and positioning. Officers will not resort to using force unless other reasonable alternatives have been exhausted or would be clearly ineffective under the circumstances.
The new use of force policy calls for increased transparency and accountability in reporting use of force incidents. Officers are responsible, at all times, for truthfully describing the facts and circumstances of any use of force incident. Field supervisors will respond to the scene of any weapon discharge or any reportable use of force incident in which medical attention is required to ensure the validity and accuracy of the investigation. The public release of information concerning use of force incidents will be accurate and timely, while maintaining the delicate balance between protecting the investigation and keeping the public well informed. Use of Force Guidelines – Policy Revision Summary the Research and Development Division has worked in conjunction with various internal units and outside entities to review, evaluate, and revise the entirety of the Department’s Use of Force Guidelines. Below is a summary of the significant revisions to the existing policy:
- Eliminates the existing Use of Force Model graphic and explanation from the written policy.
- Affirms the Department’s commitment to the “Sanctity of Human Life” in all police-community interactions and member conduct.
- Reaffirms and strengthens the Department’s expectation that members apply the principles of Force Mitigation when involved in a use of force incident or taking police action requiring the use of force.
- Creates, for the first time, a Department definition of “force.”
- Creates a more restrictive use of force policy than the standard established in Graham v. Connor (490 U.S.386, 1989) which provides that an officer’s use of force be objectively reasonable in light of the particular circumstances faced by the officer. Additionally, the policy now requires members to:
- Use physical force only when no reasonable effective alternative appears to exist.
- Use the least amount of force reasonably necessary based on the totality of the circumstances.
- Creates a more restrictive deadly force policy than that is allowed by the Illinois Compiled Statutes (720 ILCS 5/7-5 and 720 ILCS 5/7-8). The policy now requires members to:
- Defines deadly force as including the application of a chokehold and striking a subject’s head with an impact weapon or into a hard, fixed object.
- Only allows for the use of deadly force to prevent death or great bodily harm from an immediate threat posed to a member or another person.
- Eliminates the existing affirmation of life policy making blanket prohibitions on discharging a firearm for warning shots, at persons whose actions are only a threat to themselves, or in defense of property.
- Adds restrictions for firing into crowds, or into buildings, windows, doors, or other openings when the person fired upon is not visible, and firing at or into a moving vehicle.
- Requires members to offer medical aid to those injured in a use of force incident and comport themselves in a manner that conveys the gravity of the incident and the member’s concern for the injured.
- Requires members to intervene on the subject’s behalf when any member observes violations of the use of force policy.
- Implements a mandatory minimum thirty-day administrative duty assignment for officers involved in a shooting incident.
- Creates new weapon-specific limitations, including:
- Members may only draw and display a firearm when the member has reasonable cause to believe it may be necessary for their safety or the safety of others.
- Limits Taser deployments to three cycles before an officer must re-access and look for other options.
- Requires justification for each separate deployment of Taser or OC Spray against a subject.
- Implements increased restrictions and new protocols for use of canines as a response option.
Summary of the proposed policy as posted on the official CPD site: