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Chicago's Release Of Police Shooting Videos May Change Foot Pursuit Policy

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In Chicago, the release of another set of police shooting videos is sparking discussions over just when police should chase people suspected of committing crimes. The latest videos show police shooting and killing Anthony Alvarez, who is 22 years old, back on March 31. Alvarez was one of three people killed by Chicago officers while chasing them in the last week of March alone. And we should advise you that this story contains audio from the shooting, which many people will find disturbing. Here's Patrick Smith of our member station WBEZ.

PATRICK SMITH, BYLINE: Police body camera and security videos show officers chasing Alvarez through a gas station parking lot down an alley and then into the front yard of a home on a residential street. The video shows Alvarez had a gun in his right hand, but his back turned toward the officer when he was shot and killed. After the shooting, on Officer Evan Solano's body camera, you can hear Alvarez ask Solano why he shot him.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

EVAN SOLANO: You had a gun.

SMITH: Alvarez was killed two days after a Chicago police officer shot and killed 13-year-old Adam Toledo in a foot chase. Experts say those chases are inherently dangerous. And now their deaths are prompting Mayor Lori Lightfoot to promise a new foot pursuit policy for Chicago officers.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LORI LIGHTFOOT: No longer can we afford to put off for tomorrow what we can address today because lives are truly at stake.

SMITH: Chicago has known for years about this particular hole in its policing policies. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice warned that the lack of a foot pursuit policy in Chicago was resulting in officers engaging in reckless chases that too often ended in violence. And recently released data show police use of force during foot chases is on the rise in Chicago. Nusrat Choudhury is with the ACLU of Illinois.

NUSRAT CHOUDHURY: Policies are meant to guide officer discretion, especially when there are dangerous tactics involved. And we know that foot pursuits are a dangerous tactic.

SMITH: University of South Carolina professor Geoffrey Alpert says it is absolutely best practice for departments to have foot pursuit policies. He says they can help officers protect themselves. And some guide them on things like making sure they stay together or take wide turns around corners to avoid ambush. But he argues that any policy that would tell officers not to chase after someone with a gun would seriously weaken policing and make it harder for officers to keep people safe.

GEOFFREY ALPERT: I could see, don't chase someone who just stole bubblegum from the - you know, from the grocery store. But I've never seen a policy that says, don't chase someone with a gun.

SMITH: Accidents and deaths have prompted police departments across the country to severely limit when officers are allowed to get involved in car chases. But will that carry over to foot chases?

ALPERT: I wouldn't think so. Car chases are extremely dangerous for everyone. But for foot pursuits, it's a different story. The risks are different. We can control the risks - maybe that a single officer does not get in the foot pursuit.

SMITH: Chicago's effort to control those risks is now moving very quickly. Police Superintendent David Brown says they already have a draft foot pursuit policy completed and are awaiting input from officers. Then they'll put it out for public comment. The goal is to have a new policy in effect before the summer. For NPR News, I'm Patrick Smith in Chicago.

(SOUNDBITE OF FATB AND DRYHOPE'S "UNRAVEL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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