CHICAGO — A newspaper’s analysis of Chicago police shootings from 2010 through 2015 found that foot chases played a role in more than a third of the 235 cases that ended with someone wounded or killed.
About half of the pursuits began as police attempted to stop or question people for curfew violations, public drinking, thefts, disturbance calls or other minor offenses, the Chicago Tribune (http://trib.in/2cjNk59 ) reported. According to the analysis, nearly a quarter of those killed by police during foot chases were struck only in the back, a factor that is often cited later in civil rights lawsuits that question the threat actually posed to officers.
Those factors played out in the Chicago Police Department’s recent fatal shooting of Paul O’Neal, an unarmed black teen who was killed in July after bailing out of a stolen car and leading officers on a short foot chase in the city’s South Side.
The newspaper’s analysis also found that police say they recovered a gun in 84 percent of the shootings by officers involved in foot pursuits.
“I don’t know if we would be respected or effective if we stopped chasing bad guys,” said Anthony Guglielmi, Chicago police spokesman.
Changes in how and when officers are permitted to chase suspects on foot will likely be an outcome of the U.S. Justice Department’s ongoing probe into the Chicago Police Department, policing experts said. At least a dozen Justice Department probes of police departments over the past 20 years have called for establishing specific foot-chase guidelines. Other cities also have implemented policies following controversial police shootings involving foot pursuits.
Some experts said setting foot-chase guidelines doesn’t mean letting criminals loose.
“It’s a false choice to say an officer has unlimited ability to pursue subjects or we just let the bad guy go,” said Matthew Barge, co-executive director of the Police Assessment Resource Center, which has helped create and track policing reforms in cities across the country.
Chicago Fraternal Order of Police president Dean Angelo Sr. said trying to micromanage officers’ quick decisions could do more harm than good.
“If there’s a (foot-chase) policy, then the officer has to call it in. It’s got to be monitored,” Angelo said. “They’re going to want to know why you’re chasing him. . To have to get into ‘Well, is this justified under the policy?’ with someone listening in on the other end and deciding if you can continue, that would be crazy.”
The experts said federal investigators will be particularly interested in how police shootings have affected minorities. The newspaper’s analysis found that while African-Americans made up 80 percent of all those shot by police in the six-year span, 94 percent of those shot during foot chases were black.
The Chicago Police Department released the data on officer shootings to the Chicago Tribune in July after the newspaper threatened to sue in the midst of a seven-month battle with the city over its failure to fulfill public records requests.
Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com