CHICAGO — After a months-long battle, the city of Chicago recently released police department video footage that shows Chicago cops pulling up to an armed robbery in progress on the north side in August. While those officers chased after the getaway car, a CPD supervisor quickly ordered them to terminate the pursuit, and the men went on to rob more people.
CWBChicago requested the police “POD” video shortly after the robbery unfolded near Western and Albion avenues on August 16. But the city refused to hand it over, claiming people would be “deprived of a fair trial” if they did. That’s despite the fact that no one has ever been arrested for the crime.
The Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications finally forked it over after we took our case to the Illinois Attorney General’s office.
At least 11 people were robbed during a spree that morning. Many of the victims reported that armed men stepped out of a gray SUV with pistols and rifles, including a couple in the 2400 block of North Ashland and another victim in the 5200 block of North Damen.
CPD surveillance officers quickly determined that the crew was getting around in a Dodge Durango that had been stolen from the 6900 block of North Damen. The officers tracked the Durango on the city’s video and license plate reader networks.
Within minutes, the surveillance unit watched live as the crew hopped out of the SUV and committed another armed robbery in the 2400 block of West Albion, just off Western Avenue.
A CPD squad car arrived while the robbery was in progress.
“I can see them right now,” the surveillance offer radioed. “They got long guns. There’s a unit on scene.”
Here’s what the camera feed showed:
That patrol unit tried to pull the Durango over as they snaked through the North Side. Officers said four men were inside the SUV with their faces covered, bearing at least one rifle.
But not long after the unit started to chase the SUV loaded with armed, masked men who had just robbed someone as Chicago police officers watched, a CPD sergeant ordered the squad car to terminate their efforts to stop the Durango.
Here’s the termination order as heard on police radios:
Chicago has paid out tens of millions of dollars for lives lost and injuries caused by pursuits that ended with crashes. The police department’s written policy explicitly states that no officer will ever be punished for not chasing a suspect. And CPD supervisors have become so skittish about the possibility of something going wrong they’ve even ordered cops to stop pursuing a car suspected of carrying wanted murderers.
Of course, there’s a trade-off when the city discourages pursuits to save money and reduce the possibility of injury to third parties. That trade-off is that armed, violent people are not apprehended, and they continue to commit crimes.
That’s precisely what happened after officers terminated the pursuit of that Durango.
About 20 minutes after cops were ordered to let the Durango go, four people were robbed at gunpoint by a group of men who got out of a dark gray SUV, possibly a Dodge Durango, in the 1600 block of West Ogden, a CPD spokesperson said.
The victims, a couple in their 20s and another couple in their 30s, were outside when the SUV pulled up, and all four men displayed guns while demanding their property. Police later found one of the victims’ phones in a trash can outside a Bucktown bank.
About an hour later, shortly after 4 a.m., Chicago police officers spotted the Durango again in the 1400 block of North Milwaukee in Wicker Park. The cops radioed that they believed they interrupted the crew as they were trying to commit another robbery. According to their radio transmissions, those officers followed the Durango for a short distance but did not try to pull it over.
Investigators have a better chance of securing criminal charges against robbery crews if the offenders are arrested quickly. That’s because the robbers might still be wearing the same clothes as the robbers or could still have weapons or robbery proceeds with them. And it’s easier to link them to the robbery if they’re in the getaway car minutes after the crime instead of several hours later.
Chicago police efforts to tamp down on this year’s skyrocketing robbery stats have been hampered by CPD’s strict vehicle pursuit policy. The policy, enacted in 2020, is 11 pages long. It specifically prohibits Chicago officers from pursuing anyone for a traffic offense other than DUI. And it states explicitly that CPD will not discipline any member for ending a motor vehicle pursuit. If they continue a pursuit, though, they’ll be held responsible for anything that goes wrong.
As a result, Chicago police have been relying on Illinois State Police troopers, whose pursuit policy is less restrictive than CPD’s, to handle vehicle chases. And ISP has been effective when their units are available.
Earlier this month, Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) announced that he wants Chicago cops to have the same vehicle pursuit parameters as state troopers.
“I’m working closely with some attorneys around drafting that language so that we can make sure that it fits within the parameters of the Illinois State Police. And again, if the Illinois State Police are doing this, there’s no reason why CPD can’t do this,” Villegas said, according to Block Club Chicago.