CHICAGO—President of Chicago’s largest police union (Fraternal Order of Police) John Catanzara said Chicago Police Department’s new foot chase policy is a de facto “no foot chase policy.”
In a video addressing his union members last Friday, Catanzara said foot chase is inherently dangerous and injuries could easily occur, such as when the offender steps into a pothole. If police officers could be subjected to disciplinary actions for offender’s injuries, they might as well just not do it, he said.
“No proactive policing going forward, unless you absolutely, on view, [see] a shooting or a violent felony—that is the only exception to that policy going forward,” Catanzara said in the video.
Chicago Police Department Superintendent David Brown unveiled the new foot chase policy last Wednesday, in the wake of the fatal shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo by a Chicago police officer during a foot chase. The body camera footage showed the officer fired a shot into Toledo’s chest after Toledo dropped his gun and turned toward the officer.
The 12-page new policy was developed with input from both community and police officers, according to commander of policy and procedure at Chicago Police Department Mike Kapustianyk, who explained the policy to the general public at a Tuesday virtual webinar.
The community members asked for clear guidelines on what police officers cannot do on a foot chase, which resulted in several prohibitions for police officers in the new policy, such as they cannot pursue offenders for criminal offenses less than a Class A misdemeanor (such as drinking on the public way, simple assault or criminal trespass to land.)
For the police officers, they mostly asked for “bright lines” in the new policy. “In our focus groups with officers,” Kapustianyk said, “[They said], ‘please, tell us what we can do and what we cannot do.’”
Fraternal Order of Police wasn’t consulted during the policy development, Catanzara told the Chicago Tribune. He said the union contract with the city dictated that they should be consulted, especially if a policy comes with potential for disciplinary actions against officers.
The overarching principle guiding the policy development is the sanctity of life, Kapustianyk said. It considers not only the safety of the offender, but also that of members of the public and that of the police officers.
About 15 percent of foot chase cases result in officer injuries, according to the executive director of Constitutional Policing and Reform at Chicago Police Department Robert Boik. He said at the virtual webinar that he hopes the new policy will result in less injuries of police officers.
The new foot chase policy comes in two major parts. One guides police officers on the pre-chase considerations, where they weigh the safety risk of a foot pursuit against the need to immediately apprehend the offender. Officers are asked to deescalate or consider other alternatives, such as to arrest later or wait for help, before they engage in a foot chase.
The other part guides police officers during a foot chase, asking them to activate their body cameras, notify the dispatcher, and always reassess the situations to look for an alternative to a continued foot chase.
The new foot chase policy, though still an interim policy at this stage, will become effective on June 11. Superintendent David Brown said at a press conference last week that he wanted it to take effect right away so officers could use these new practices during the typical summer violence spike in Chicago.
The community members can make anonymous recommendations to the policy through July 15, after which the Chicago Police Department will settle on a final foot chase policy.
Catanzara told the Chicago Tribune that his union is planning to challenge the new foot chase policy.