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Chicago Police's New Use Of Force Policy Focuses On 'Sanctity Of Life'

By Kelly Bauer | May 17, 2017 12:23pm | Updated on May 19, 2017 11:37am
 The Chicago Police Department unveiled its new use of force policy on Wednesday.
The Chicago Police Department unveiled its new use of force policy on Wednesday.
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DNAinfo/Kelly Bauer

CHICAGO POLICE HEADQUARTERS — A new Chicago Police Department Use of Force policy that aims to focus on "sanctity of life" marks a "big win" for Chicagoans, said an activist whose work led to the changes.

The Police Department spent more than a year reworking the policy, which governs how and in what situations police can use force, including deadly force. The new policy advises officers that their force must be objectively "reasonable" and "proportional," said Supt. Eddie Johnson during a Wednesday news conference.

Officers still will be able to use deadly force when there is a threat of great bodily harm or death, Johnson said. The policy also tells officers how to "safely and humanely" use tools like Tasers or canines, Johnson said.

"I'm not naive," Johnson said. "I know that there will be some who think that these policies are too restrictive for officers to do their jobs, and some who think it isn't restrictive enough. ... I do believe the set of policies we're releasing today are in the best interest of everyone."

The new policy "clearly, clearly" calls on officers to report others who don't follow the policy when using force, Johnson said, and officers who don't report misdeeds can be "culpable."

Johnson, Police Board President Lori Lightfoot and activist Will Calloway attributed the changed policy to the death of Laquan McDonald at the hands of an officer. The Police Department came under intense scrutiny after video of the teen's fatal shooting was released in November 2015.

"The incident with Laquan really was the catalyst, and it was paramount on how we got here," said Calloway, who fought for the video of McDonald's shooting to be released and worked with police on crafting the new use of force policy. "This is a big win for us. Our voices were heard."

The Police Department hopes the policy — as well as other reforms — can help police officers rebuild trust with Chicago community members.

"I know that CPD is only as good as the faith that the community has in it," Johnson said.

Officers will start online training sessions on the policy within the next few weeks. They'll have to go through four-hour, in-person training by the fall, when the policy will go into effect, Johnson said, and there will be another eight hours of training next year.

Police have been working on changing the policy for months, billing it as part of the reforms that have gone through the department since McDonald's death. The Police Department released drafts and asked officers and community members for feedback, something it hadn't done before. It received hundreds of comments during the process, which Lightfoot called "historic."

"I think the process that was used will serve as a precedent going forward," Lightfoot said. "It is inclusive, it is transparent, it is exactly what is needed.

"This policy is a good step in the right direction. Clearly, there's more work that needs to be done," she said.

A first draft of the policy had placed a "heavy emphasis on the sanctity of life," police said in October, advising officers to only use force when absolutely necessary and to avoid using deadly force.

But a revised draft, unveiled in March, instead said officers could use force that is "reasonable and proportional," Johnson said.

The draft also did away with language that had advised officers to use force only when "no alternative appears to exist."

Read the new policy here: 

Use of Force Full Text by Jen Sabella on Scribd