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Chicago Police may no longer chase fleeing suspects on foot for some offences

“The mere act of flight alone by a person will not serve as justification for engaging in a Foot Pursuit,” the new directive states. The policy prohibits officers from stopping someone after they run away from a police officer.

According to the new guidance, officers will no longer be allowed to chase potential suspects for offences such as suspended licence, insurance violations, business licence offences, drinking in public, simple assault, criminal trespass to land, or violations that are only enforceable by citation.

Police also may not pursue simply because an individual tried to avoid them. If a person declines to speak with an officer, or flees after seeing an officer, the officer may not give chase.

The new policy also makes a point of reminding officers that they or their supervisors will not be criticised or disciplined for declining a foot pursuit or calling one off. It further includes a number of circumstances in which an officer must call off a chase.

Law enforcement may now only engage in a foot pursuit if the pursuing officer establishes a Reasonable Articulable Suspicion (RAS), or “probable cause to believe that (1) the person being pursued has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a Felony, a Class A misdemeanour, a traffic offence that endangers the physical safety of others, or (2) the person being pursued is or is about to commit an arrestable offence that poses an obvious physical threat to any person.”

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot demanded law enforcement in her city to create an interim policy after the two foot chase that resulted in shootings of a 13-year-old and 22-year-old within days of each other in 2021. The incidents sparked heavy protests, and the police were heavily criticised while the protesters called for the police department to change its policy of officer pursuits.

Tim Grace, the attorney who represented both officers, believed the guideline to be unreasonable, and said that “(The) police have the duty to enforce the law and the idea that someone can break the law, drive without a licence and run from the police is wrong,” adding that, “If you don’t want (police officers) to enforce the law, just tell them.”

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