The Chicago Police Department, under pressure from a U.S. Justice Department investigation and public outrage over police misconduct, unveiled proposed policy changes aimed at cutting down on the kinds of controversial uses of force that have plagued the city. The draft policies would further limit when officers can shoot fleeing people, restrict the number of times officers can Taser arrestees, and compel officers to use the lightest force possible in any situation, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The proposed changes are the latest aftershock of the court-ordered release in November of video of white officer Jason Van Dyke shooting African-American teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times. The video touched off sustained protests fueled by decades of frustration among many black Chicagoans over use of force and the failure to discipline officers. DOJ is investigating whether Chicago police have systematically abused citizens, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel has worked to enact changes to policing and discipline aimed at getting ahead of reforms that federal authorities might seek. The mayor is contending with surging gun violence seen as a consequence of police ratcheting back their aggressiveness to avoid criticism or punishment. Experts lauded the proposal but said other police departments have been making similar reforms for years while Chicago has endured a string of policing scandals and spend tens of millions of dollars on lawsuits over alleged police abuse. “Welcome to the 21st century,” said Geoffrey Alpert, a professor of criminal justice at the University of South Carolina. “This is a step in the right direction. Good for them. It’s just a day late and millions of dollars short.”