The Chicago Police Department has made new rules about how cops should treat protesters as the city braces for more demonstrations over the shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo and other killings by officers elsewhere.
The department issued the policy without fanfare Tuesday, and it dwells at length on how police should disperse crowds — a flashpoint for clashes at past demonstrations. The rules now say cops should give clear warnings before moving to disperse groups, allow people time to leave and try “less intrusive” methods for stopping illegal acts before acting to scatter a crowd.
Policy often has not translated to the street in a department with a long history of abuse and misconduct, especially against Black and Latino people. But putting in place rules allows the department to set expectations and discipline cops who break them.
The changes came two months after Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson put out a report criticizing the department for a disorganized and dangerous response to protests and looting sparked last spring by the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis officer. Protesters complained that police were violent and disrespectful throughout a summer of demonstrations.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said over the weekend that the city had been preparing for protests tied to the trial of former Officer Derek Chauvin — who is charged with Floyd’s murder — and would be ready for demonstrations driven by other causes. Protesters gathered downtown Tuesday and Wednesday to protest the deaths of people including Toledo and Daunte Wright, a Minnesota man an officer fatally shot last week. Chicago officials plan to release body camera video of Toledo’s shooting Thursday.
The city put out the new rules after negotiations with the parties involved in the court order designed to spur reforms in the troubled Chicago Police Department. Lawyers for the activist groups had asked the city for changes after last year’s protests.
Sheila Bedi, a Northwestern University law professor who represents some the activist groups, said they wanted more restrictive rules than the ones that came out Tuesday and hope for further change.
“These changes show progress but much more needs to be done in order to prevent a retread from what happened last summer,” she said. “I think that for so long as CPD shows up to protests looking for a riot, violence will happen at the hands of CPD officers.”
Chicago police spokesman Luis Agostini declined to comment.
Last year, the department issued a training bulletin to cops on handling protests, but the new rules carry the force of policy. The changes elaborate on comparatively bare-bones past restrictions on handling people publicly exercising their First Amendment rights, and they focus heavily on managing and breaking up crowds.
The new policy calls on department brass at the scene to make contact with protest leaders and communicate with crowds through multiple means, which could include loudspeakers, language interpreters or visual aids. The rules now call for “isolating specific violent or disruptive individuals” while allowing protests to go on.
The rules say police can’t issue a dispersal order unless “three or more persons are committing acts of disorderly conduct in the immediate vicinity and those acts are likely to cause substantial harm.” The orders must be clearly audible, and given repeatedly before officers move to break up the crowd. The rules also instruct officers to give clear directions as to where people should go. Protesters complained last year that they didn’t hear dispersal orders before police acted.
The new rules call on ranking officers to document why they gave dispersal orders and explain efforts they made to stop people from breaking the law before splitting up the crowd.
The changes also remind officers of the department’s other policies on using force and documenting it, and tell cops not to comment on protesters’ views. Activists complained after last year’s protests that police had used force indiscriminately and said offensive things to them, while Ferguson found officers failed to document some uses of force.