Chicago police create foot chase focus groups to review policy

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago police have tapped a select group of officers and supervisors from districts across the city to weigh in on potential policy changes after recent fatal foot pursuits.

The ABC7 I-Team obtained documents given to these foot chase focus groups.

According to the paperwork, police supervisors could tell officers in a foot pursuit to hold their positions or stop altogether if the safety risks outweigh the need to apprehend.

The chase and fatal police shooting that killed 13-year-old Adam Toledo and the fatal police shooting of 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez are among the incidents that have prompted police officials to convene the officer focus groups. Police said both men were armed during the separate March pursuits.

The first group meeting was held Thursday at headquarters, where the handout was given to supervisors and officers.

The "Foot Pursuit Concepts for Consideration" sheet is topped with, "Foot pursuits are inherently dangerous."

The proposal states, "Officers will engage in a foot pursuit only when they have reasonable articulable suspicion to conduct an investigatory stop or probable cause to arrest."

The focus group were told, "While no tactic can completely eliminate the possibility of a foot pursuit, officers should try to use assistance from other units and other tactics."

It also requests suggestions for "avoiding unsafe foot pursuit tactics, including partner splitting" during a chase, which frequently happens.

"Foot pursuit policies, haven't been sufficiently tested," said Marc Buslik, a retired 39-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department. He was the 19th District commander and is a consultant to the U.S. Justice Department on policing and crime matter.

Buslik now teaches criminal justice at the University of Illinois Chicago.

"We don't have sufficient evidence to say, this is the best kind of foot pursuit policy," He said. "And we have to be very careful, not just in foot pursuits, but any policy that we try to rely on what the evidence says we should be doing, not what we think is best practices, not what we think is the policy of the day. But what does the evidence tell us that actually works?"

There are seven to 10 foot pursuits citywide every day by police according to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who ordered a police policy to regulate them.

"I understand that people are maybe impatient. But it's important for us to craft a policy that reflects input both from community members but also from line officers who are going to have to live with whatever that policy is," said Lightfoot.

As the foot chase focus groups continue, Mayor Lightfoot said she hopes to see a draft policy in a few weeks.

The mayor admitted giving thought to banning foot pursuits until a policy is in place, but said it wouldn't be right to send a message that you can avoid accountability by going faster than police.
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