At Issue: Defining How Police Use Force

Vol. 2, Issue 43: Chicago’s Criminal Justice Playbook
Invisible Institute: The View From The Ground

By Curtis Black


A new use-of-force policy announced by Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson last week – after months of public comment on two previous drafts ­– removed a requirement that officers use the least amount of force necessary that was in the original version. Officers are now mandated to use force that is reasonable, necessary, and proportionate.

The new policy was welcomed by Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, chair of the mayor’s Police Accountability Task Force, and by Independent Police Review Authority administrator Sharon Fairley. Appearing at a press conference with Johnson, community activist William Calloway called the new policy “a big win.”

Craig Futterman of the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic at the University of Chicago said the rules were “watered down” and represented “a significant retreat” from the original draft. The original proposal was issued while the Chicago Police Department was under federal investigation – and before a new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, indicated the Justice Department is not likely to pursue a consent decree.

The new policy shows that CPD “is incapable of reform by itself,” and underscores the need for court supervision, Futterman said.

The new policy falls short of goals stated in a reform plan issued by CPD in March, Futterman has argued. That document stated that use-of-force policies would make clear that an officer may resort to physical force only when no effective alternative appears to exist, and must restrict the amount of force to that which is necessary; in addition, it said, new policies would require officers to “de-escalate situations as soon as practicable.”

The new policy advises officers to use de-escalation tactics “when safe and feasible”­ – language that’s been criticized as “too vague” when adopted elsewhere, according to the New York Times. In Cleveland, where police are operating under a federal consent decree, a proposed force policy would “require, rather than suggest, de-escalation efforts,” the Times reported.

A “key change” in the new policy restricts officers from shooting at fleeing persons unless they pose an immediate threat, the Chicago Tribune reported. Last year the Tribune reported that foot chases were involved in more than a third of police shootings from 2010 to 2015.

Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham said the department does not need new force policies, adding that “people do not have the right to resist arrest.”

Language in the final policy has been criticized by civil rights and government watchdog groups in the Police Accountability Collaborative, which previously called on CPD to “clarify that de-escalation is an integral part of effective policing tactics,” strengthen the requirement that officers give medical aid to wounded suspects, and reinstate a broader duty for officers to intervene when they witness unreasonable force.

The new policy will be implemented in the fall, after all CPD officers have undergone a four-hour training session, the Tribune reported.

Guevara rejects immunity offer

Former Det. Reynaldo Guevara has refused an offer of immunity by state and federal prosecutors, the Chicago Sun-Times reported, and prosecutors want a judge to compel Guevara to testify in a hearing for two men who say their murder confessions were coerced by the detective.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said it “remains confident that [Gabriel] Solache and [Arturo] Reyes were not wrongfully convicted,” according to a court filing.

Guevera has been named in over a dozen wrongful conviction lawsuits, and the convictions of several men whom he investigated have been overturned.

Cook County settles lawsuit over probation officer raids

Cook County is paying $110,000 to settle two federal civil rights lawsuits charging its probation officers teamed up with Chicago police and the FBI to conduct illegal searches, the Chicago Tribune reports. Chicago police officers and an FBI agent remain defendants in the lawsuit.

In a related development last week, Chief Judge Timothy Evans fired Deputy Chief Probation Officer Phillip Loizon. Evans acted three years after a Tribune investigation found that probation officers under Loizon’s command had allegedly planted drugs, stolen money, and worked with other agencies to conduct warrantless searches.

Another call for Daley to testify in Burge case

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s testimony is needed to clear up conflicting accounts of how he handled torture allegations while he was State’s Attorney, according to a filing in a wrongful conviction lawsuit. The lawsuit is by Stanley Wrice, whose murder conviction was overturned in 2013 when a judge ruled that detectives under former Cmdr. Jon Burge beat a confession out of him.

In two previous Burge-related cases, the city settled lawsuits after Daley was ordered to give depositions but before he testified. Daley is also currently a defendant in a lawsuit by Alonzo Smith, whose murder conviction was vacated in 2015 based on evidence that he was tortured by Burge associates. Daley’s deposition in that case was scheduled for January but was postponed after his attorney raised concerns about an unspecified medical condition.

In the Chicago Reader ten years ago, John Conroy reviewed Daley’s responses to questions from a special prosecutor and listed 20 questions he’d like Daley to answer.

Judge, lawyers tussle in murder case retrial

Cook County Judge Diane Canon will continue to preside over the retrial of Malvin Washington, despite repeated efforts by defense attorneys, who say Canon is biased against their client, to have a new judge named.

Washington’s 2004 conviction was overturned by an appellate court which ruled Canon’s instructions to the jury in that trial were inadequate.

Washington’s attorneys have said Canon has called them names and characterized a key defense witness as a fraud. The matter “came to a bizarre head” last week, according to the Chicago Tribune, in what the Chicago Sun-Times called a “rambling lecture” in which Cannon accused defense attorneys of wishing her dead and urged Washington to get different attorneys. He declined her suggestion.

In 2015, Canon acquitted then-Cmdr. Glenn Evans of shoving his gun down a suspect’s throat, despite the alleged victim’s DNA being found on the gun’s barrel. Canon dismissed the victim’s testimony as lacking credibility.

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