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How Chicago Could Change the Way Police Use Force: 12 Responses from Our Readers

Here’s what you, through our Use of Force Tracker, told the Chicago Police Department about their drafted rules on when police can and cannot use force against civilians.

City Bureau/Invisible Institute

When the Chicago Police Department released a draft of revised Use of Force policies, City Bureau and the Invisible Institute decided to create a tool to make it easier for people to read the draft, understand the context and add their own feedback. In total, over 50 comments, upvotes and responses were logged via our interactive, annotated Use of Force Tracker tool by members of the public during the CPD’s public comment period. (See a full list of comments here.)

Below, we pulled out 12 of those suggestions. For more information, click the link in each comment and see the full annotation.

  1. On reasonable use of force: “The standard of reasonableness must be explicitly defined as reasonableness from the perspective of a citizen. There is a large—and growing — disconnect between what officers view as reasonable and what citizens view as reasonable. This is a concrete change that encourages empathy.”
  2. On choke holds: “A better definition of choke holds is needed. Also, chokes may be necessary to preserve life in the case of a subject who is under the influence of drugs and not responding to pain control. The choke, properly executed, can save the life of an officer and the subject is such a situation.”
  3. On medical attention for those injured by police: “This [directive] would seem to imply that the department will now be required to provide medical training to all officers, equip them with the necessary equipment, and ensure that all training and equipment will remain up-to-date.”
  4. On officer testimony: “There is quite a bit of research that shows that after a traumatic situation such as a deadly force encounter, full recall of an incident may not be possible immediately. The fight-or-flight response may include tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, and impairment of judgment, to name a few. Those who have experienced those symptoms may not be in a position to immediately provide complete details. This policy should be examined closely.”
  5. On holding techniques and passive resistance: Why are holding techniques permissible for a passive resister who is solely resisting verbally? Verbal resistance should not warrant use of force.”
  6. On the code of silence: “Given the gravity of a violation of use of force, I think it is necessary to identify the sworn member who is using force in violation of this directive as soon as possible.”
  7. On police officers identifying themselves as officers: “This [directive] is unacceptable. Officers should always have to identify themselves if they are on the job and being paid to do said job. Not identifying themselves at all times escalates situations further and jeopardizes the safety of both the community and officer. This must be changed.”
  8. On de-escalation training and techniques: “The de-escalation training for officers has not been effective thus far as Chicago is still paying out millions of dollars of tax payer money to settle cases of use of force. De-escalation is NOT shouting “put the gun down” three or four times before shooting. All CPD officers should be required to take de-escalation training form a licensed clinician (LPC, LCPC, LCSW etc) and NOT a higher ranking officer or employee employed by CPD. Consequently, conflict resolution training should also be included. Additionally, ALL officers should be mandated to spend time in the communities they serve — specifically on the south and west sides of Chicago — off duty and unarmed with the intention of interacting with the community in some form or fashion so they are able to understand how members of the community act, how conflict occurs and how conflict is resolved.”

9) On proportional response: “‘Proportional’ needs to be explicitly defined so that all officers are clear. Shooting to kill — which has been what has been occurring lately — is not proportional. The use of a Taser to incapacitate a suspect is proportional. Shooting a suspect in the leg is proportional. Emptying a clip on a suspect out of fear is not proportional.”

10. On race and ethnicity in use of force:

11. On use of force against pregnant women: “Based on policies in other jurisdictions, and a number of incidents involving use of force against pregnant women by Chicago police officers, the policy should expressly prohibit use of force on pregnant women and children, including, but not limited to, use of Tasers, take downs, use of force to the abdomen and rear handcuffing.”

12. On community/police relations: “‘Cooperation’ simply means bowing to the power and being acquiescent. “Collaboration” would be more appropriate, but of course that would require a balanced power level between police and community.”

10 Ways Chicago Might Change the Way Police Use Force: Shootings, Taser, Pepper Spray, and More

We collected feedback and submitted it directly to the Chicago Police Department on shootings, Tasers, pepper spray, and more.

(City Bureau)

Throughout October/November 2016, City Bureau and the Invisible Institute’s new interactive Use of Force Tracker tool gave the public an inside look at how the Chicago Police Department might change its Use of Force policy, or, rules on when police can inflict harm upon civilians.

This was the first time the CPD opened up a draft review process to public comment. Until then, our #UOFtracker is here to break down the legal—at times obscure—text to offer a view of how Use of Force Guidelines have affected the lives of Chicago residents in the past, and how you can impact the police department draft going forward.

As part of our civic journalism work—which includes a reporting fellowship, a #PublicNewsroom and our Documenters programwe use Genius to demystify some heavy material. The 10 annotations below were written and chosen by City Bureau Documenters to help the public understand what’s at stake.

Take a look—leave your own annotation. On November 19, we’ll submit all annotations left on the #UOFtracker to the CPD’s public comment system.

For a complete list of annotations, a side-by-side comparison of the old and new Use of Force guidelines and our source material, see the Use of Force Tracker here.


1. Sanctity of Human Life:

The directive: “The Department’s highest priority is the sanctity of human life. In all aspects of their conduct, Department members will act with the foremost regard for the preservation of human life and the safety of all persons involved.”

Our notes: http://genius.com/10707147

2. Deadly Force Investigations:

The directive: “Deadly force incidents involving a Department member that result in a member of the public sustaining fatal or life-threatening injuries will be investigated consistent with the Department directive entitled “Officer-Involved Death Investigations.”

Our notes: http://genius.com/10707496

3. Emergency Medical Services After the Use of Force:

The directive :“Consistent with the Department’s commitment to the sanctity of life, after any use of force incident involving injury to Department members, bystanders, or subjects, Department members will immediately: comport themselves in a manner that conveys the gravity of any use of force and the Department members’ concern for the sanctity of life of all persons injured or in need of EMS.”

Our notes: http://genius.com/10707662

4. Police Policing Themselves:

The directive :“Duty to Intervene and Report. All Department members are obligated to ensure compliance by themselves and other members with Department regulations, policies, and the law. …Any Department member observing the use of force in violation of this directive will be responsible for intervening on the subject’s behalf. Appropriate actions may include, but are not limited to, verbal or physical intervention, immediate notification to a supervisor, or a direct order by a supervisor to cease the use of excessive force.”

Our notes: http://genius.com/10707686

(William Camargo/City Bureau)

5. What is ‘Objectively Reasonable’ Force:

The directive: “This directive…continues the concept of Force Mitigation as a component of the Department’s response to all incidents.”

Our notes: http://genius.com/10707833

6. Role of Chicago Police Investigation Agency:

The directive: “IPRA will be responsible for the administrative investigation of firearm-discharge incidents involving sworn members.”

Our notes: http://genius.com/10709647

7. 30-day Administrative Leave Following Firearm Discharge:

The directive: “Department members who have discharged a firearm as described in Item V of this directive and have completed the Traumatic Incident Stress Management Program will be placed in a mandatory administrative duty assignment for a minimum period of thirty days within the Department member’s unit of assignment.”

Our notes: http://genius.com/10709702

8. Firearm Discharge Protocol:

The directive: “This directive outlines the protocol for maintaining, carrying, and discharging a member’s Taser device.”

Our notes: http://genius.com/10709958

9. Taser Discharge:

The directive: “Post Discharge. After an initial discharge of a Taser, Department members will: …reasonably justify each separate deployment of energy from a Taser as a separate use of force that officers will document.”

Our notes: http://genius.com/10710129

10. Taser Training:

The directive: “Tasers will be carried, handled, tested, and deployed only by members who have completed Department-conducted training on their safe handling and deployment.”

Our notes: http://genius.com/10710409

This is What You Get for Reporting in the Open

Examples of the photo essay created during our Open House — see full set below. (Photos: Maria Cardona)

Finding the unexpected at a City Bureau open house

What do you get on a warm summer night when 100+ civic-minded journalists, artists and community folks gather at Chicago’s Experimental Station?

Something unexpected.

Adeshina Emmanuel, Bea Malsky and Latricia Polk present their stories about Chatham.

We had a great night at our Summer Open House. (We had gold, limited-edition, variant logo City Bureau buttons at our Summer Open House!) But, more importantly, we saw our reporters step out of their journalistic comfort zones and explore new ways to interact with their audience — from giving presentations to collecting questions via our friends at Hearken to engaging in earnest conversations about issues of critical importance to the city. All in our South Side newsroom.

If you want to see more work like this, please support us on Kickstarter.

But one of my personal favorite parts of the night came in a series of 22 moments built around a single prompt—an idea generated and led by our reporters. I’ll let them explain:

Last Friday Aug. 19, City Bureau held its Summer 2016 Reporting Cycle culmination event at 6100 S. Blackstone where attendees visited various interactive booths to learn about the investigations we’ve been working on.

Our team has been researching a story about the promises and failures of community policing in Chicago, and as part of our project, we asked attendees to answer the prompt, “What Should Police Know About You?” People wrote their answers on a bright-colored Post-It, and some participated in our photo essay, writing their thoughts on black-and-white portraits that we printed during the event.

At the beginning, some people were nervous about who would see these answers and whether they’d be judged for them. However, by the time the photo booth closed, 22 black-and-white photos were collected with messages that went beyond “What Should Police Know About You?” People wanted to shatter misperceptions of how they may be perceived on the surface by police.

-Andrea Salcedo and Manny Ramos (City Bureau Summer ‘16 Reporters)

Andrea, Maria and Manny

The following series by photographer Maria Cardona is one of many special interactions we found at our Summer Open House—some were curated and most were unexpected, but they’re all helping to guide our approach to journalism, civic engagement and reporting in the open.

The news reports from our Summer reporting teams will be published in the coming days and weeks but I wanted to take a minute to consider the unfiltered words of the friends, family, partners and followers who stopped by our newsroom August 19 to celebrate the work of our current cohort and the future of our public newsroom.

If you want to see more work like this, please support us on Kickstarter.