Claudia Flores: Chicago Police Use of Force Policies Fall Short of Human Rights Standards

Commentary: Chicago’s police must do more to protect human rights

When the city of Chicago rejected the vast majority of the recommendations of the Use of Force Working Group for reforming the policies of the Chicago Police Department, it once again chose to rely on the status quo rather than engage in meaningful reform.

CPD’s use of lethal force policies do not comply with the most basic standards under international human rights law aimed at protecting the fundamental rights each of us have by virtue of simply being human. These rights include the right to life, equality, liberty and security of person, freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and freedom from discrimination. These rights belong to every individual, regardless of race, ethnicity, immigration status or gender, and are recognized under treaty commitments of the United States.

To protect these rights, a police use of lethal force directive must allow lethal force only when it is absolutely necessary as a last resort and in response to an immediate, particularized threat; proportional to the threat or resistance faced; sanctioned by law; and held meaningfully accountable through independent investigations and accessible, transparent record-keeping. The city’s policies failed to meet these standards, according to a recent report by the Global Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School, of which I am the director and report co-author.

Despite its well-documented history of excessive use of force disproportionately directed against communities of color, the city continues to refuse to protect human rights and adopt best practices in its use of force directives. The Working Group recommendations ask the city of Chicago to do just that: restrict the use of Tasers to situations in which a person presents an immediate threat of serious bodily harm; ban chokeholds; prohibit force against peaceful protesters; restrict force against vulnerable people; define force to include intimidation tactics; require officers to document all significant uses of force, including when officers point their guns at a fellow human being; impose a duty to intervene when fellow officers use unnecessary force; and respect the dignity of people injured or killed by CPD. These recommendations, if implemented, would protect the basic human rights of the people of Chicago.

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