Chicago Police Use of Force Policy Falls Short

Pulling back on proposed rule changes that upset some rank-and-file officers, police Superintendent Eddie Johnson has proposed a new use-of-force policy that is less restrictive than the one he floated five months ago.

A draft policy released in October drew complaints from both officers and police reform advocates. Some officers said the draft policy was too restrictive for cops making split-second decisions under pressure, while reform advocates said it didn’t spell out clearly enough when police should and should not use force.

In a shift in tone and policy, the new draft proposal released Monday opens by proclaiming the department’s commitment to officer safety while eliminating a provision saying cops must use only the least amount of force needed. The draft also softens the department’s stance on officers using their new de-escalation training to defuse tense encounters, saying cops only have to try those tactics “when it is safe and feasible.”

Union officials welcomed the new draft, while policing experts described the changes as a mix of good and bad. The experts were concerned that department officials are backing off on the need to defuse confrontations in a department plagued by questionable shootings and Taser uses.

“Any kind of backing away from de-escalation is deeply troubling,” said Sheila Bedi, a Northwestern University law associate professor and criminal justice reform advocate.
The union for rank-and-file officers, the Fraternal Order of Police, encouraged members to give feedback on the original draft, said President Dean Angelo Sr. The new draft, he said, indicates their concerns were taken seriously.

“It’s not like we look forward to utilizing force or we look forward to firing our weapon,” he said.

Uncertainty remains as to what rules will eventually be enacted and how the department will enforce any new policies. The police and public have 10 days to comment, and department brass plan to review the feedback, make any changes deemed necessary and enact new rules, according to a news release.

The new draft, meanwhile, only shows changes to the city’s main force policy, and the department has dozens of pages of other policies that govern the use of force. It is unclear, for example, what rules the city will eventually enact on the use of Tasers. Police officials are continuing to review and revise the other use-of-force policies, a departmental announcement said. Continue Reading

Article Org: chicagotribune.com

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