Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Weapons Policy for Chicago Police Emphasizes 'Sanctity of Life'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Weapons Policy for Chicago Police Emphasizes 'Sanctity of Life'

Article excerpt

On Friday, the Chicago Police Department announced a new set of proposed policies that will update how it trains police officers to use force. The stated goals are to better protect the "sanctity of life" and establish trust through transparency.

The draft policies would require police officers to actively attempt to de-escalate dangerous situations and provide specific justification for each time physical force, or any weapon, including a taser or pepper spray, is used. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says he hopes to see the policies fully in place by 2017, although some are questioning how effective they will be.

"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," Mr. Johnson told CNN.

The new policy proposals come ahead of the release of the Department of Justice's (DOJ) report following an investigation into accusations of systemic racism and civil rights abuses within the Chicago Police Department. Several incidents led to the investigation, including the October 2014 fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old black man, who was shot 16 times in the back while walking away from police.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed for the changes in police policy so as to get ahead of reforms that the DOJ may require of the department once its report comes out. However, other cities around the country have already implemented similar policy changes causing some to question if Chicago's reforms are just too little, too late.

"Welcome to the 21st century," Geoffrey Alpert, a professor of criminal justice at the University of South Carolina, told the Los Angeles Times. "This is a step in the right direction. Good for them. It's just a day late and millions of dollars short."

The proposed changes would attempt to mitigate race as a factor in police actions after a mayoral task force found that the Chicago Police Department's own data showed a lack of respect for black lives, particularly when choosing whether or not to use force. …

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