Independent Authority Recommends Fewer Shootings, More Warnings
The Chicago Police Department should tighten its rules on deadly force, according to a report by the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA). According to The Chicago Tribune, the quarterly report argues that the circumstances in which police officers are allowed to fire at suspects should be narrower. The IPRA thinks the Chicago police should aim to avoid shootings that fall within legal rules but may be avoidable nonetheless. Specifically, they recommend that the City revise its rule allowing officers to fire at fleeing felons. The rule should only allow such shootings when the police believe the felon is an immediate threat to the physical safety of police officers or others. They also recommend that police rules require warnings before officers fire their weapons and that police officers avoid drawing their guns unless they believe they will have to shoot.
IPRA Is Soft on Excessive Force
Other recommendations included making it easier for police disciplinary authorities to fire or suspend officers involved in shootings. The Chicago Police Department has rarely taken these steps. Only 3 of the 400 incidents in which police shot someone in the last decade have resulted in findings that the officer violated department use-of-force rules. Decatur Herald & Review reports that the IPRA itself recommends punishment in less than 4% of cases with sworn affidavits alleging police misconduct. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has promised to replace the IPRA with a more aggressive oversight body, but so far no concrete plans have emerged. The latest report may be a sign that the IPRA is trying to reform itself in order to avoid more drastic restructuring by the mayor’s office.
Illinois Laws on Police Use of Deadly Force
The law of the land requires that officers use deadly force only to protect against likely harm. In Tennessee v. Garner, the Supreme Court held that police officers couldn’t shoot at a fleeing suspect just because they were suspected of committing a burglary. It would only have been justified if they believed the suspect posed an immediate threat to someone’s safety. In that case, the suspect was unarmed and made no specific threats. Illinois courts have concluded that, in cases where a police officer suspects that a person has committed a forcible felony, the officer it is reasonable for the officer to use force, since the fleeing suspect poses an immediate threat to others. Chapter 5, Article 2 of the Illinois Criminal Code defines a “forcible felony” as including first and second degree murder, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, burglary, arson, kidnaping, or aggravated battery. Illinois courts tend to defer to the factual findings of internal police administrative reviews, except when those reviews seem obviously at odds with the evidence in front of the court.
Will Police Rules Satisfy Illinois Courts?
The standard the Supreme Court laid out in Garner is very broad, but protects suspects who do not pose any physical threat: police officers cannot fire weapons at such suspects. Chicago police are within Illinois law when they fire at a fleeing suspect if they believe that suspect committed a forcible felony, as defined by the Illinois Criminal Code. However, specific police department rules may require the officer to exhaust other methods of arresting the suspect without using lethal force. If the Chicago Police Department implements the recommendations of the Internal Police Review Authority quarterly report, then officers may need to give verbal warnings to suspects before using deadly force. If an internal review body decides that an officer has followed the departmental rules for use of deadly force, a court is likely to respect that finding, unless the evidence clearly contradicts the finding.
Contact a Chicago Police Misconduct Attorney
If you or someone you love has been the victim of police brutality, you need expert legal advice. Contact an experienced civil rights attorney at Barney & Hourihane in Chicago today and get the justice you deserve.
See Related Blog Posts