CHICAGO (CBS) — The Emanuel administration and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan have reached an agreement that police officers must file a report every time they point their gun at someone, as part of a draft draft consent decree implementing widespread reforms at the Chicago Police Department.
That issue had been the last sticking point in a draft consent decree announced by Madigan and Mayor Emanuel in July.
“Knowing when police officers point their guns at someone will allow CPD to improve officer and community safety,” Madigan said in a statement Thursday. “I believe this is critical in achieving true reform of the Chicago Police Department.”
In a statement Thursday morning, the mayor did not address the specifics of the agreement about requiring officers to report whenever they point their guns at someone, but said he’s proud of the work done to reach a deal on the federal consent decree.
“This consent decree will cement the reforms we have made in recent years and drive future reforms in the years ahead – strengthening our police department and improving our public safety,” Emanuel said. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Chicago is on the road to reform, and there will be no U turns.”
The draft agreement includes changes to police use of force, training, supervision, discipline, oversight, and more.
At a hearing Thursday morning, Madigan’s office and the city revealed an agreement to provide new guidance on when officers “should and should not point a firearm at a person” by Jan. 1, 2019.
“CPD will also clarify in policy that officers will only point a firearm at a person when objectively reasonable under the totality of the circumstances,” the agreement states.
The new rules also will require officers to document each time a firearm is pointed at someone, beginning July 1, 2019. The officers must report their actions to the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications as soon as possible. Those officers’ immediate supervisors also must be notified of each incident, and the city must electronically link all such reports to regular police reports and body camera recordings of the incident.
The city also will set up a designated unit at the Police Department to regularly review and audit reports of officers pointing their guns at people. Reviews must happen within 30 days of each incident, and identify whether the officer violated department policy. The unit also will be tasked with identifying any patterns of such incidents.
Beginning in 2020, an independent monitor appointed to oversee the city’s compliance with the consent decree also will conduct annual reviews of reports of officers pointing their weapons at someone, and recommend any necessary changes to how those reports are filed.
Thursday afternoon, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson praised the agreement, saying the department wanted to make sure the new requirement would not deter officers from drawing their weapons when needed in a dangerous situation.
“We fought to ensure that we do not create impediments to officers’ ability to do their jobs effectively,” he said. “We never want officers to hesitate, because if they do, that could mean the loss of their life or someone else’s; but at the same time, we want the public to recognize that we’re out there to protect them also.”
Johnson also emphasized that the department never objected to a requirement that officers file a report when they point a gun at someone.
“We never, ever said we were against documenting pointing. We never said that. What we knew was that we had to create a mechanism so that we would be transparent, but that it didn’t cause officers to hesitate,” he said.
For example, Johnson said he didn’t want officers thinking twice about drawing their weapons in cases where they respond to a call about shots fired and spot someone matching the suspect’s description.
“You’re not going to wait when you approach him, because if you wait, it might be too late,” Johnson said. “We did not want the officers to have to think about all these things before they decide to make a decision whether or not to unholster their firearm.”
The superintendent stressed that the new reporting requirement does not include instances when officers simply unholster their weapon, or hold it pointed at the ground, but only when they point their gun directly at another person.
U.S. District Judge Robert Dow must approve the final consent decree before it goes into effect. First, approximately 1,700 written comments from the public must be reviewed. Dow also has scheduled two days of hearings on Oct. 24 and 25 to allow the public to weigh in on the consent decree before it is approved.
The Fraternal Order of Police has called the consent decree a sham, and vowed to fight it in court. The union has been especially critical of Madigan’s demand that officers document each time they point their firearm at a person, fearing that might make officers hesitate in a life-or-death situation.
FOP Chicago President Kevin Graham said the new reporting requirement for pointing guns will put more officers in harm’s way. He called the agreement a bad move by Madigan and the Police Department.
“We believe that police officers are going to be hesitating, because they don’t want to be second-guessed by the department, and by outside groups saying that they may not have had the right to do that,” he said. “You have to make a decision in a split second. Taking out your gun to cover yourself, to make sure that people aren’t going to assassinate you, I think is reasonable, and I don’t think people should be leaving paper every time they have to pull their gun.”
Graham also said if criminals know officers might be hesitant to draw their weapons, police could be in greater danger in the field. He said rank-and-file officers will be very upset with the new rule, and will want to fight the consent decree in court.
“Once again, they have taken a document, they have failed to consult with the FOP, and the men and women who actually go out there and do the job every day and night and put their lives on the line,” he said. “So once again politicians and the courts are trying to decide how to run the Police Department, instead of the experts and the people who are actually doing the job.”
Johnson said he’s not concerned that FOP opposition could delay implementing the consent decree, or hamper the department’s efforts to rebuild trust with the community.
“FOP’s mission is to negotiate and protect their membership. So I don’t have an issue with that,” he said.
The superintendent said it will be up to the judge to decide if any changes are required to the draft consent decree based on the police union’s concerns.