Chicago PD adopts many community-led policy changes to focus on de-escalation, sanctity of life

The CPD was persuaded to modify its terminology to now refer to community members as "persons," not "subjects," "suspects" and "offenders," among several other reforms.

The Chicago Police Department has embraced community-led policy reforms that stress de-escalation techniques and the sanctity of human life, according to a new 22-page report that outlined modifications and shortcomings in police policies.

According to The Chicago Tribune, the Use of Force Community Working Group for the city, established roughly two years ago, unveiled its first public report on Monday. 

In addition to the sacredness of all life now serving as the police department’s guiding premise, the group was able to persuade CPD to modify its terminology so that it now refers to community members as “persons” rather than “subjects,” “suspects” and “offenders.”

The Chicago Police Department has adopted a series of changes that put the protection of human life at the forefront. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

“CPD’s force policies now prioritize the sanctity of all human life; require officers to de-escalate situations to avoid the need for any force; prohibit the use of any force unless necessary; and restrict the amount of force to least amount necessary under the circumstances,” the report said, according to The Tribune.

The group also successfully changed CPD’s regulations regarding officers’ participation in protests. The use of pepper spray by police on participants in peaceful demonstrations is now forbidden unless the police superintendent permits officers to do so. Police are also no longer allowed to unleash dogs on crowds, demonstrators, or other moving targets.

Suggested police policy changes that were not adopted include classifying pointing a gun as the use of lethal force. CPD also has to make video, audio and police reports public within 48 hours of an officer shooting their gun or using a Taser at someone else or when an officer uses force that causes death or severe injury.

According to the report, Use of Force Community Working Group members also intend to hold neighborhood “teach-ins” to inform the public of CPD’s new regulations and ensure that the city’s police adhere to the laws.

The group — which consists of representatives from the Chicago Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Southside Branch of the NAACP and Black Lives Matter Chicago — first convened in the summer of 2020. The meeting came after a consent decree requiring the Chicago Police Department to consult with neighborhood residents when updating its use-of-force policies.

Months later, in October 2020, CPD rejected every significant recommendation of the 155 modifications from the panel related to changes to the department’s policy. The police later contacted the group after it issued an open letter to Mayor Lori Lightfoot published in The Chicago Sun-Times, calling the process a sham.

“As Chicagoans understand all too well, what CPD policies say on paper can be very different from what happens on the ground,” the report said, according to The Tribune. “Each of us needs the knowledge and tools to make these policies more than paper tigers.”

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