Former prosecutor argues for Chicago police to revamp pursuit policy

By Glenn Minnis

(The Center Square) – With robberies on the rise at levels not often seen in Chicago, state Sen. Steve McClure (R-Springfield) says it is time to take the handcuffs off Chicago police by relaxing the city’s vehicle pursuit policy.

“It allows for criminals to know all they have to do is outrun the officer,” McClure, a former prosecutor, told The Center Square. “It encourages criminals to risk everything because, at some point, they know they’re not going to be pursued, and that’s just dangerous for everyone.”

With the Community Commission on Public Safety and Accountability now studying the situation and weighing the possibility of amending the policy, McClure said he is hoping to see the agency quickly take action.

“The policy for whether or not law enforcement pursues someone in a vehicle should be a case-by-case basis based on the danger of the individual, what road they’re driving down and what the crime is alleged to be before they started the chase,” he said. “If you just have this blanket statement that you’re not going to pursue people, that just gives the bad guys a heads up and it’s going to cause bad behavior. If the bad guys know they could be pursued until the end then their behavior is going to reflect that’s the reality. It has to be based upon the facts on the ground as the officer sees them.”

McClure added the city is already paying a heavy price for what he sees as some of the senseless policies to recently come out of Springfield, like the 2021 police regulation and criminal justice overhaul bill known as the SAFE-T Act.

“There’s a direct correlation between that bill passing and the fact that a lot of people left law enforcement in Illinois,” McClure said. “And then you’ve got the fact that recently the governor and Democrats in the House allowed for the sunset to expire for stiffer penalties for felons caught with firearms and repeat firearm offenders. These policies encourage the people that are the most dangerous in our state to continue to commit crimes.”

McClure said things have gotten so far out of control that the whole system almost needs a complete overhaul.

“The first thing that has to happen is that retail thefts have to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law in Chicagoland,” he added. “When you see lower crimes like retail theft ignored on a regular basis and you got a prosecutor that doesn’t charge, that spreads a narrative to people in that community that crime is acceptable. When you allow crime to be widespread at the most basic level, it spreads to other things. You’ve got to create an environment that shows you’re going to be tough on crime.”

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.

The department has become so risk-averse that its supervisors almost always order patrol officers to terminate pursuits of violent offenders, even if the cops see an armed robbery committed firsthand.

Chicago police have been relying on Illinois State Police troopers, whose pursuit policy is less restrictive than CPD’s, to help with vehicle chases. And ISP has been effective when their units are available.

Last 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.

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