Chicago Police Recruits trained in “safer” pat-down

In Chicago, the police department is trying to modernize. Not only has the agency recently made an effort to update its written procedures, Windy City police trainers are also updating their lesson plans. The issue at hand is the safest way to frisk a suspect. While the image of an individual with his hands against a wall or car as officers check pockets and pat for weapons is iconic to say the least,  there is a new school of thought suggesting there may be a safer way to check suspects’ persons for drugs and weapons.

Training instructors for the Chicago Police Department have moved away from teaching recruits to do searches with suspects facing and touching walls or cars. Instead, trainees are taught to make suspects stand, then hold one arm of the suspect and perform a one-handed pat down.

Observers say that changes like the pat down re-do show how the department regularly re-evaluates what it teaches recruits in order to increase officer safety. And the department is even bringing in veteran cops for refresher training. Since last November the department has begun offering courses on topics including the use of force, tactical driving, protecting a weapon and shooting techniques.

Commanders of the city’s 25 police districts are sending officers with up to more than 20 years on the job for more training in the new techniques according to Howard Lodding, an assistant deputy superintendent who runs the training academy. “We’ve asked patrol to send us guys that haven’t been back a while,” Lodding told reporters with the McClatychy Tribune News service.

“Most of our job is anticipating. You’re not chasing the guy with the gun everyday or trying to take someone out of a stolen vehicle every day. But when it happens, you need those skills.” Chicago police instructors say that the “up-against-the-wall” method has not faded entirely from use and it can and likely will continue to be used on the street, especially by more veteran officers.

Trainers say that even using the old method, there are plenty of ways to increase officer safety by increasing the angle of the lean of the suspect. Even so, the training shift shows how instructors tweak their message based on experience, crime trends or the introduction of new equipment.

Part of the impetus for the new pat down technique is a large increase in the number of physical assaults on Chicago police officers. That number has jumped 22 percent in two years.

About Attorney John J. MacLaughlan

John MacLaughlan is Massachusetts licensed attorney as well as a Boston police officer. John is currently assigned to the Youth Violence Strike Force (Gang Unit). He is a graduate of the Massachusetts School of Law with a concentration in Labor Law. He holds a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell as well as a Bachelors Degree in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. John has taught Defensive Tactics, Firearms, Use of Force, Applied Patrol Procedures, and Police Response to Active Shooters to sworn police officers and police academy recruits. Prior to becoming a Boston Police Officer, John served for 9 years as a police officer in Lowell, where he was a member of the Police Dive Team and Patrol Rifle Team.
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