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Police Review Board Urges Strict Revisions To Use Of Deadly Force Policy

By Stephen Gossett in News on Jul 15, 2016 5:05PM

Photo: Scott Olson / Getty Images

The group tasked with investigating Chicago police shootings made a host of recommendations to the police department in its latest quarterly report, the most notable being a call for stricter guidelines on the use of deadly force.

“The use of physical force to achieve law enforcement goals is perhaps the most important privilege that we as a community bestow on our law enforcement professionals,” the report reads. “This privilege, however, is not without limits.”

The recommendation includes five distinct points regarding deadly force. Of the five, the most significant are a request that officers give warning calls before firing a weapon, when possible, and a call for a revision to the “fleeing felon” guidelines.

The first point argues that “the affirmation of the protection of life” provision should be placed first in the Chicago Police Department governing policy be revised in order “to reflect that the department values all human life.”

Secondly, the “fleeing felon” provision should be revised so that officers can use deadly force only when he or she “reasonably believes that the fleeing suspect presents an immediate threat of harm.” As written now, officers can fire weapons in order to prevent the escape of a fleeing felon, regardless of the degree of threat posed.

Third, the agency recommends police more closely consider the context around officer shootings. The report states that policies in other police departments discourage tactics that might unnecessarily escalate an incident, although it does not offer specifics on what exactly those tactics are.

The fourth point offers a list of factors that should be considered in determining the appropriateness of use of force. The list of considerations includes the seriousness of the crime, the level of threat posed by the subject and the training and experience of the officer.

Finally, the review authority urges that a warning should be given by officers before firing at suspects “when possible under the circumstances.” “We understand that these incidents evolve quickly and that officers do not always have the luxury of time in which to react to changing circumstances. However, the use of deadly force should always be a last resort.”

The full 72-page report can be read here. The Use of Deadly Force Policy Recommendations begin on page 21.

The Fraternal Order of Police did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The report comes as the IPRA faces its own embattlements. Rahm Emanuel requested the agency be abolished and replaced. The City Council held hearings on July 6 and 7 about police oversight. Their approach has been criticized for not including a civilian-elected board, failing to reach out to experts on the subject matter and showing a general lack of interest in thorough public input.