Chicago police want de-escalation first, use of force only when needed

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Story highlights

  • Chicago police want public's input on proposed use of force guidelines
  • Officials would rather see a tense situation de-escalated

Chicago (CNN)The Chicago Police Department on Friday announced several proposed changes to how it defines and trains officers on the use of force.

The announcement was made ahead of the US Justice Department's expected release of findings from a probe into alleged civil rights abuses within the police force.
    The DOJ probe was announced in the wake of several high-profile cases of alleged police misconduct, including the October 2014 shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald as he walked away from Chicago police officers. The shooting was caught on police dashcam video. Jason Van Dyke, the officer charged with murder in the case, is set to stand trial later this year.
    Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said at a Friday press conference that the draft set of policies emphasize the "sanctity of life" while rebuilding trust within the community and the police department and establishing a culture of transparency and accountability.
    The proposals aim to provide a clearer definition of police force and require independent justification each time a "tool" is used in a force event, such as the deployment of sprays, Tasers and batons. Physical force would only be used when "no reasonable alternative exists," Johnson said.
    Johnson announced the start of a 45-day public comment period to allow members of the community and police department to provide online feedback on the draft set of policies. This marks the first time such a web page has been created for public comment in the department's history, said Johnson.
    Johnson also announced the creation of the Bureau of Organizational Development, which will be responsible for reviewing all of the feedback and implementing permanent changes in department policy, along with the eventual findings from the DOJ probe.
    Anne Kirkpatrick, the new body's organizational development chief, said that the policies are expected to be implemented by the end of the year, and that the bureau hopes to have all of the police department's roughly 12,500 officers trained by spring 2017.
    "We will also have in our policy that the least amount of force that is reasonably necessary will be approved," Kirkpatrick said.
    Critics have long accused the Chicago Police Department of not doing enough to deal with a "code of silence" within its ranks that allows abuse to go widely unpunished. The new proposals aim to address the problem.
    "We will be training and expecting that our officers will not only report if a member were to violate the use of force policy, but that they will intervene," Kirkpatrick said.
    Johnson said: "If a supervisor or a rank and file officer is found to try to retaliate or try to intimidate an officer for reporting alleged misconduct, that person will suffer severe penalties, up to termination."
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    Kirkpatrick said that she examined how other police departments address the same issues so that the new policies would "bring us in line with the best policies around the country." When asked which cities officials looked at, she cited Los Angeles, New Orleans and Seattle.
    Johnson reaffirmed last month's announcement that all city police officers will soon be required to wear body cameras and that over the next two years 970 additional sworn positions will be added. The new officers will provide "new blood" to the department, he said.
    "Today as we speak, in-service officers and recruits are receiving live scenario-based de-escalating training, where they're learning to introduce the concept of time in high tension situations and identify individuals who may suffer from mental health issues with the use of deadly force being the last and final option."
    When asked to identify the most significant proposal being introduced Friday, Johnson said "the business of being able to de-escalate situations I think is paramount to what we're going to do."
    "Can you use force? Yes. Should you use force? Maybe not. There are maybe other alternatives you can utilize so that you don't have to use deadly force."