CHICAGO (CBS) — In the wake of some high-profile Chicago Police chases and tragic, deadly crashes, have police pursuits gotten any safer?
The CBS 2 Investigators have obtained some brand-new records. CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey on Tuesday looked into how often such chases turn fatal.READ MORE: Judge Bars Chicago Police Union President John Catanzara From Encouraging Officers To Defy City's Vaccine Mandate
Unfortunately, it was a high-speed crash that killed an innocent bystander last year that led to updates to CPD’s vehicle pursuit policy. But since that time, we’ve actually seen more chases by police.
“It’s so hard to believe it,” Jaritzi Escobar said last year. “It’s like, it can’t be my mom. I know she’s going to be awake soon.”
Hickey sat down with Escobar – the daughter of 37-year-old Lupe Franco – in June 2020 along with other members of Franco’s family. Days earlier, a Chicago Police squad car had been involved in a high-speed chase when it slammed into Franco’s sport-utility vehicle at Ashland Avenue and Irving Park Road.
The mother of six was killed instantly.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot called for changes to CPD’s pursuit policy afterward.
“We have to do something about it,” Franco’s sister-in-law, Bibi Alvarez, said in June 2020. “We’re not just going to leave it like that.”
And changes happened. In August 2020, the CPD updated their “eluding and pursuing” directive – clarifying language on how supervisors should weigh the risk of a chase against the risk of letting someone escape.
Did that change help prevent tragedies like this one?READ MORE: No Cameras Will Be Allowed In Courtroom For Jussie Smollett's Trial
According to records obtained by the CBS 2 Investigators through the Freedom of Information Act, there have been at least 199 total chases so far this year. That is actually more pursuits than the same period in 2020, when there were 163.
We’ve had just a few more crashes so far in 2021 — 79 this year versus 77 during the same period in 2020.
The good news is that fatalities are down. There were four fatal crashes in this period in 2020 compared to just one so far this year.
Still, one is too many. CBS 2 was on the scene of that crash in February that took the life of 43-year-old Lakisel Thomas at the intersection of 74th Street and Racine Avenue in Englewood.
“This has been an ongoing debate and policing for some time,” said David A. Harris, a policing expert and a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. “The danger of these chases is apparent.”
Harris – who works with departments to improve their policies – said that while the data showing fewer fatalities is encouraging, the rise in actual pursuits is not.
“But if you put a policy in place with a goal of increasing safety for pedestrians and uninvolved drivers, and instead, you get more chases and roughly the same number of crashes, it does seem to me it’s time to re-examine the policy,” Harris said.
We reached out to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability Tuesday for a status on the crash that killed Lupe Franco in 2020. Late Tuesday, we were still waiting for an update.MORE NEWS: Democratic Illinois Lawmakers Call For Removal Of Postmaster Louis DeJoy Over Ongoing Mail Delays
As for the CPD, they declined to comment for this story. But they referred us to the directive which states that officers must consider that important balancing test.