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Chicago Police Want The Public's Help Changing Their Use Of Force Policy

By Kelly Bauer | October 7, 2016 12:01pm
 Supt. Eddie Johnson announced proposed changes to the Chicago Police Department's use of force policy. The changes call for officers to place a
Supt. Eddie Johnson announced proposed changes to the Chicago Police Department's use of force policy. The changes call for officers to place a "heavy emphasis on the sanctity of human life," police said.
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DNAinfo/Kelly Bauer

POLICE HEADQUARTERS — Chicago Police should not use their weapons unless it's absolutely necessary, which the department hopes to make more clear in a new use of force policy that factors in public opinion. 

The proposed changes would direct officers to place a "heavy emphasis on the sanctity of life," police said, advising officers to only use force when absolutely necessary. Even when using force, officers will be advised to avoid deadly force — and officers will be expected to report and intervene when their colleagues violate the policy.

"The word 'intervention' is critical here: that they would step in and stop an event," said Organizational Development Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, who led the team that crafted the proposed changes.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the department has created ways for officers to turn in their colleagues and supervisors without fear of retaliation.

And for the first time, the department will ask for public comment on the proposed changes, inviting people to review the draft and comment online. The commenting period will start at noon Friday and last for 45 days.

After that, Kirkpatrick and her team will review the comments and potentially adjust the draft, legal experts will review the draft and Johnson will make a final decision on what the use of force policy looks like.

The department hopes to have the policy in place by the end of the year with training for officers beginning early in 2017.

Johnson said he hopes the policy, once finished, can help clarify when and how to use force for officers. An example of one proposed change: Officers will be trained to use their stun gun three times and then reassess if they should continue to use it on a person, Kirkpatrick said.

"Our true North marker will be the sanctity of human life," Kirkpatrick said. "We also are reaffirming, in policy, our commitment that officers and members of this department, when using force, will apply the principals of force mitigation."

The proposed changes also create "for the first time a clear definition of 'force,'" Kirkpatrick said, while it would expand the definition of "deadly force."

The proposed changes come at a "critical" time, Johnson said, and the goal of the changes is to hold every person in the department accountable.

The Chicago Police and how its officers use force have been under scrutiny for months, with heavy criticism aimed at the department after the city released a video showing an officer fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times. The officer who shot McDonald, Jason Van Dyke, has been charged with murder, and others have been accused of trying to cover up McDonald's death.

And just Thursday, Johnson told a crowd that an officer who was badly beaten feared for her life — but also feared shooting her attacker because of potential backlash. Three officers were injured in that incident, and the attacker was eventually taken into custody with the use of a stun gun and Mace, police said.

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