Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department David Brown answers questions at CPD headquarters on April 28, 2021 after COPA released video footage of the fatal police shooting on Anthony Alvarez on March 31 in the Portage Park neighborhood. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

CHICAGO — The Police Department has unveiled a new foot chase policy that still widely allows officers to chase people — despite Mayor Lori Lightfoot repeatedly saying foot pursuits are “dangerous.”

Lightfoot was highly critical of the Police Department’s chase policy after officers shot and killed 13-year-old Adam Toledo and 22-year-old father Anthony Alvarez during foot chases. The two were just killed days apart at the end of March.

But the policy, announced quietly in a news release during a City Council meeting Wednesday afternoon, still allows officers to chase people if there is “probable cause for an arrest or it is believed an individual has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime,” according to the Police Department.

The policy does ban foot pursuits over “minor traffic offenses,” according to the Police Department.

The policy will go into effect June 11. The department will “review the policy and make revisions as appropriate,” with a final version of the policy expected to come in September, according to the Police Department.

The American Civil Liberties Union’s Illinois branch noted the announcement of the policy was “sudden” — and said the policy fails residents because residents of color weren’t part of its creation.

“The policy was developed without incorporating the ideas of Black and Brown Chicagoans who have been the victims of reckless foot pursuits and have stood ready to work with the city on a policy to restrict foot chases,” the ACLU stated in an email. “The only true path to police reform includes meaningful and deep community input in order to shape policies and practices that end patterns of violent policing that have targeted Chicago’s communities of color for generations. …

“To achieve real reform, the city must do better.”

The city sees seven to 10 police chases per day, Lightfoot previously said. After officers killed Toledo and Alvarez, she publicly and repeatedly railed against the Police Department’s foot chase policy and said it needed to be revamped — but not done away with altogether.

“Foot pursuits are a very dangerous exercise,” Lightfoot said at an April 29 news conference.

On April 15, she said: “Foot pursuits put everyone involved at risk: the officers, the person being pursued and bystanders. We have to do better, and I charge the superintendent with bringing to me a policy that recognizes how dangerous this is. We can’t afford to lose more lives.”

And before that, on April 5, Lightfoot said, “What I’m saying is foot pursuits pose a significant safety issue, first and foremost to the officers. It is one of the most dangerous things that they engage in.”

But in the Police Department’s news release Wednesday, Lightfoot praised the new policy.

“The important parameters outlined in this policy will not only protect our officers, the public and potential suspects during foot pursuits, but it also serves as a step forward in our mission to modernize and reform our police department,” Lightfoot said in the news release.

People can fill out an anonymous online form sharing their views on the policy. Public comment will be open through July 15, and the Police Department will host community meetings and targeted discussions with neighborhoods groups to get feedback on the revised policy, according to the Mayor’s Office.

A virtual event will be held June 1 where department officials will review the policy and answer questions about it from members of the public. Details about the event are available online.

Highlights from the new policy:

  • The policy says foot pursuits are only appropriate when there is “probable cause for an arrest or it is believed an individual has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime,” according to the Police Department.
  • Foot chases are prohibited for minor traffic offenses and offenses less than a class A misdemeanor, unless the person “poses an obvious threat to the community or any person,” according to the Police Department.
  • Foot chases should be stopped if someone is injured and requires immediate medical attention, if officers don’t know where they are and/or if the need to apprehend the person is not worth the risk to officers, that person or the public.
  • Foot chases should also be stopped if the officers think they wouldn’t be able to control the person they’re chasing if they confronted them.
  • Officers should begin any interaction with tactics to reduce the possibility of a chase. It details tactics to avoid foot chases, like communicating with people and encouraging officers to be in a position so as to avoid the chance someone can try to run away.
  • Officers in a chase must notify the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.
  • Officers chasing someone must activate their body cameras to record the entire incident.

The full policy can be read online.

On April 29, Lightfoot said she wanted to see a draft policy put out and public comment gathered.

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