The Chicago Sun-Times recently wrote about how bad car crashes have gotten in Chicago, Illinois. Except it’s not regular motorists who are causing all the mayhem; it’s the police. Specifically, it’s police chases that are causing all the accidents.
Chicago recorded 270 chases in 2019, and 180 of these ended in either loss of property, loss of human life or both, per the Chicago Sun-Times. Eight drivers died in these car crashes from 2019. In other words, two out of three police chases in the city that year ended in a car crash and one in 23 of those were fatal.
Those statistics are from 2019, but Chicago PD didn’t even change its policy until deep into 2020, as the Chicago Sun-Times points out, following a fatal crash in which Chicago cops were told four times to give up chasing a suspect before one of them t-boned and killed a mother of six.
The amount of money the city has paid out as a result of these crashes is staggering, from the Chicago Sun-Times:
Lawsuits from Chicago police pursuit crashes account for the largest share of payouts in terms of both settlements and verdicts, according to the city’s Report on Chicago Police Department 2019 Litigation.
More than $6 million in settlements, or 30% of all settlements paid out by Chicago, were for wrongful death lawsuits related to police vehicle pursuits in 2019. And $21 million in verdicts, or 74% of all verdict payouts that year, went to people suing the city in fatal vehicle pursuit cases.
The city spent more than $2 million a year on crash repair costs for police vehicles between 2016 and 2019...
Those figures above are mostly concerned with car chase accidents that took place in 2019, but the city’s Mayor, Lori Lightfoot, stated that the figures are higher than that as you track further back:
“In the last 5 years, the city has paid out almost $50 million in litigation related to police pursuits, and this does not account for damage to police vehicles, lost time due to injuries on duty, etc.,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot wrote Brown on April 16 last year,
When you combine all of those deaths and all of those tens of millions of dollars, it’s no wonder that the city has “revised its chase policy several times over the last two decades in an attempt to reduce crashes.” Those revisions have done little help, however, because clearly these police officers are out of control.
One anecdote in the report, detailing how an officer pulled rank to keep chasing a petty thief, shows to what extent the CPD has lost its damn mind:
In 2003, the policy underwent major changes after a sergeant kept chasing a wallet thief who struck and killed a pedestrian, Qing Chang, and her unborn child in the West Loop. Another sergeant had told him over the radio to end the chase but he continued it, citing his rank.
That’s right. A woman and infant were killed so that a policeman could keep chasing a thief who took someone’s wallet.
As a result of this, the city has even implemented a “balancing test,” which was meant to weigh the risk “of a chase against the risk of letting someone escape.” This, on top of rules put in place to stop police from chasing down folks for a minor traffic infraction. Those rules may not be helpful, anyway, since many of these accidents happen even after police supervisors ordered the chases to be terminated. It seems these car chases are like Pandora’s Box and once you open them, you can’t put away the danger posed thereby.
It’s got to the point that car wrecks from these police chases are a daily thing. In one email that the Chicago Sun-Times cited, Mayor Lightfoot even asked, “Can we incentivize for accident-free days?” Yikes.