Elgin police report using less force in 2018
Elgin police reported a 24% decline last year in so-called "response to resistance," which includes use of force and show of force, and the downward trend is continuing so far this year, officials said.
Officers used force 95 times last year, mostly by grabbing wrists and arms and taking people down to the ground, and showed force 22 times, such as by pointing a Taser or handgun without firing. Those were the lowest numbers since 2015, although officers last year used force more often when they did engage in response to resistance, data released last week shows.
Overall, officers reported using or showing force in 0.14% of about 85,550 calls for service -- including officer-initiated -- and 2.9% of nearly 3,300 arrests in 2018. The areas of downtown and south of National and Villa streets accounted for about one in four force incidents.
So far this year there has been a 20% decrease in officers' use or show of force compared to last year, Police Chief Ana Lalley said.
"We have a culture to de-escalate and, I think, taking our time and working and thinking analytically about how to solve a problem," she said. "There is always room to improve, and we know that."
Supervisors have started meeting monthly, instead of quarterly, to analyze use of force, Lalley added.
Lt. Chris Jensen fired a gun in the March 2018 shooting of Decynthia Clements, the first fatal shooting by Elgin police since 1999. Officers fired "less lethal" 40 mm rounds, or rubber bullets, twice in April 2018: when they arrested a suicidal man who police were told had a gun; and when they arrested a man who did not drop a butcher cleaver while walking back into his house, police reports show.
One person charged with retail theft suffered a separated shoulder and fractured bone when he attempted to jump a fence while eluding police, Lalley said. Another 23 other people suffered minor injuries during incidents involving force by officers.
Two people filed complaints of excessive use of force in 2018; both times, after review of body camera video -- also obtained by the Daily Herald -- the officers were exonerated.
Two officers suffered major injuries -- including one with a back injury who hasn't come back to work yet -- and another 22 suffered minor injuries during response to resistance.
Officers discharged Tasers 15 times last year, three more than in 2017. In nine instances, Tasers were ineffective, six times because probes didn't attach, officers reported. Lalley said that could be for a variety of reasons, including clothing being in the way or Tasers being fired from too far.
Carley Partridge, communications manager for Taser-maker Axon, said the latest Taser model released in October provides "better connection to the target at angles and through thick clothing."
The Elgin Police Department is committed to training officers in de-escalation tactics, which include those learned during a visit last summer to law enforcement in the United Kingdom, Lalley said. Most of Elgin's 184 officers have gone through crisis intervention training, designed to help respond to calls involving mental health issues, and the rest are expected to be trained by this summer, she said.
The department started a collaborative crisis services unit in March and plans to give officers an "emotional intelligence" training this year, Lalley said.
"Emotional intelligence is something that I think is very important," Lalley said. "It falls in line with CIT (crisis intervention training) but it's a little bit more. You're a little bit more aware about you and how your actions can cause other people's reactions."
Police data also shows a 7% decline in calls for service and a 12% decline in arrests in 2018, when serious crime increased by 5 percent but overall crime was at 40-year lows, as previously reported.
Lalley said the department increasingly is using the city's administrative adjudication system for crimes like retail theft and driving under the influence, which might contribute to the lower number of arrests.