State lawmaker wants to rework CPD foot chase policy, end legal defense frequently used by cops
After the release of a video showing a police officer fatally shooting 13-year-old Adam Toledo, a state lawmaker says it’s time to end a legal defense commonly used by police officers and revamp the policy surrounding chasing suspects.
“I just think it’s really sad to see it,” state Rep. La Shawn Ford said. “We need to look at the city, and how certain communities are still neglected, and how Black and Brown people are still neglected.
“There’s no way we could continue to go on like this, knowing that another Black or Brown person could be shot, and not change the quality of life in these neighborhoods and give people a fair shot at being successful.”
The West Side Democrat is a sponsor of a bill that creates the “Bad Apples in Law Enforcement Accountability Act of 2021.” He said dealing with the legal protection known as qualified immunity “is a must.”
Qualified immunity “protects state and local officials, including law enforcement officers, from individual liability unless the official violated a clearly established constitutional right,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“The fact that when police look at me, or someone who looks like me or someone that looks like the young boy who was killed, they don’t see them the way they see a white person, a white boy,” Ford said. “They don’t see us the way they see someone with white skin.”
Ford’s bill says a “peace officer subjecting another person to the deprivation of individual rights is liable to the person for appropriate relief,” and dictates that qualified immunity is not a defense to that liability among other things.
Ford said his bill won’t be a “total fix” to issues regarding policing because “you can’t legislate morality,” but “you can legislate and help deal with the behavior.”
He’s also working with the city on a foot chase policy, though negotiations on that legislation are still in the early phases.
“A foot chase may be necessary, but you have to respect the person you’re chasing,” Ford said. “You can’t be the judge, the jury and executer in a case, and I do recognize that police want to go home, too. They want to be protected, and they want to make sure that everything ends well for them. But the fact that there seems to be a little respect and little regard for the life of Black and Brown people is the problem.”
Ford is part of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, which shepherded a sweeping criminal justice reform bill through the General Assembly earlier this year. That package included ending cash bail in the state, created a statewide certification program for police officers, mandated three phone calls for detainees and allowed for more judicial discretion in sentencing.
Law enforcement groups have opposed both the criminal justice bill that passed in January and Ford’s bill dealing with qualified immunity.
Since the video was released, elected officials in the state have issued statements and taken to Twitter to give their thoughts on the video.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement, “as a father, I know to my core that Adam Toledo’s family is living a parent’s worst nightmare.”
Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton said in a tweet she honors the humanity of Adam Toledo, “as a mother — as a human being — my heart goes out to his mother, father, and loved ones . ... The trauma is real on many levels.”
In a statement, Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch said that while he appreciates the release of the video, “what happened to Adam Toledo is a tragedy that should never have happened.”
“I can’t imagine what it’s like for Adam’s parents to have to relive their loss,” the Hillside Democrat said. “Given that, I hope we can all learn from this heartbreaking event. Adam was a kid who deserved a full, happy life, but the system failed him. That’s what I intend to focus on — not just as a legislator but as a father.”
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability on Thursday released a video showing a Chicago police officer making a split-second decision to shoot Adam after seeing what appeared to be a gun in the hand of the 13-year-old boy — whose arms were raised when he was shot and killed.
Police have said they found a gun at the scene of the shooting and that it was the weapon Adam was holding. Another video shows Adam apparently throwing something through a gap in a fence in the alley. And police video shows an officer discovering a handgun at that spot a few feet away.