May 17, 2017
By Chris Kenning
CHICAGO (Reuters) – Chicago Police on Wednesday unveiled strict new limits on how officers can use their firearms and other force, the latest attempt to reform a department roiled by misconduct and criticism in the wake of a high-profile 2014 shooting of a black teen by a white officer.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the change spells out more clearly when such force is considered reasonable and includes new prohibitions on use of force that is discriminatory, excessive or employed as punishment. The rules will take effect in the fall after officer training.
The changes, the first to the department’s use-of-force policy since 2002, came after months of discussion and revisions.
Another change restricts an officer from shooting at a fleeing person unless the suspect presents an imminent threat to police or others. And it requires officers to use de-escalation techniques.
Johnson said the revised policy is more restrictive than state law requires. After input from police and the community, he said the guidelines seek to balance police safety and civil rights.
“I know there will be some who think these policies are too restrictive for officers to do their jobs, and some will think it will not be restrictive enough,” he told a news conference.
The policies include an overarching use-of-force rule as well as those covering force options, Taser use, chemical spray and canine use. The definition of deadly force also now includes striking a subject’s head with an impact weapon, and chokeholds.
The changes come as Mayor Rahm Emanuel attempts to drastically reform the police department, including increasing the use of body cameras and introducing de-escalation training.
The U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation into Chicago Police Department practices in the wake of the 2014 incident in which black teenager Laquan McDonald was shot to death by a white officer. A video of the shooting, released in 2015, sparked days of protests.
The McDonald shooting was one of many high-profile incidents that thrust Chicago and other U.S. cities into a national debate over the use of excessive force by police against minorities.
In January, the federal investigation found that Chicago police routinely violated the civil rights of people and cited excessive force, racially discriminatory conduct and a “code of silence” to thwart investigations into police misconduct.
The report also said excessive force falls “heaviest on black and Latino communities,” with police using force almost 10 times more often against blacks than whites.
(Editing by Matthew Lewis)
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