A new directive released by the Chicago Police Department this week instructs officers to engage in foot pursuits “only when there is a valid law enforcement need to detain the person” and when doing so “outweighs the threat to safety.”
The new policy comes after two widely publicized incidents in which a fleeing individual was shot and killed by law enforcement in the city of Chicago. In both cases, the Cook County State Attorney’s Office announced they would not file charges against the officers involved because it was determined that both officers believed they were in imminent danger when they fired their weapons. Both individuals had weapons in their possession at the time of pursuit. Insufficient evidence exists to bring murder charges against either officer, but the confrontations nonetheless prompted departmental review of its foot pursuit policy in the months that followed.
According to the new order, a foot pursuit is authorized only in certain circumstances. Instances include when the person being pursued “has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a Felony, Class A misdemeanor, or traffic offense that endangers the physical safety of others” or when the person is about to commit an act that “poses an obvious physical threat to any person.” Examples provided include driving under the influence, unlawful use of a weapon, and reckless driving. Circumstances where a foot chase is not authorized span from licensing violations to minor ordinance violations. The policy notes that “people may avoid contact with a Department member for many reasons other than involvement in criminal activity.”
The directive for less proactive policing comes as Chicago witnesses a growing wave of violent crime across the city. 2021 ended as the deadliest year since the 1990s with a total of 797 homicides. CBS News Chicago reported on the epidemic of crime in Chicago and its impact on tourism. President of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association, Michael Jacobson, told reporter Tara Molina that increasing numbers of people are cancelling stays in the windy city due to concerns over public safety: “Unfortunately, we have seen both individual leisure travelers begin to cancel their hotel rooms for the next several weeks and months because of what they’ve been hearing on the news and seeing happen downtown. More concerning is we’ve even seen conferences pull out of Chicago all together for other cities in the Midwest.”