Cops on chasing bad guys: ‘I’m going to catch you!’
BY MITCH DUDEK Staff Reporter May 25, 2014 8:56PM
Chicago Police pursue someone on foot at the scene of a fatal shooting Sunday night in the 3300 block of West Maypole Avenue in the East Garfield Park neighborhood. | Alex Wroblewski/For the Sun~Times
Updated: June 27, 2014 6:26AM
Two cops heard gunfire while eating Italian food in their parked squad car. Then a man with a gun ran by.
“We look and there’s a dude running with a gun. He ran into a project building and up 15 floors, and I ran up all 15 floors after him,” said one of the cops, who, like all active-duty cops asked to recall their best foot chases for this story, requested anonymity because they were not authorized to chat.
“I stayed on him, tackled him on the 15th floor, cuffed him, and threw up right next to him. Spaghetti and meatballs,” the veteran officer said.
“My partner caught up and fell down laughing,” he said.
The Chicago Police Department does not keep statistics on foot pursuits. But most agree that their frequency rises as the weather gets warmer.
“Chases bring a smile to everybody’s face, because that’s what we do. We chase the bad guy who attacks the good guy. . . . We’re not chasing people to stretch our legs,” the officer said.
As if reading from an action-movie script, another officer set this scene: A little girl watching cartoons on a couch didn’t flinch when two men — a cop and a drug dealer — ran past her. The men collided and crashed into the kitchen, where a woman standing at a stove screamed and bopped the drug dealer on the head with a pot.
“I handcuffed him and I turned and said, ‘Lady, stop! You know this guy?’ She told me she didn’t,” the officer said.
“You can’t stop and chat with the homeowner,” said the officer, explaining the pitfalls of chasing a bad guy through a random home. “Because if the bad guy locks a door behind him, you could have a hostage situation.”
Runners come in all shapes, sizes — and footwear.
“We had to chase prostitutes that could run like a 4 second flat 40 with high heels on,” another cop said. “We were on Roosevelt Road near Cicero. . . . They see you coming and they run, and you’re just hoping they break a heel.”
In certain high-crime neighborhoods, foot chases happen daily. About half the time, the bad guy gets away, officers said.
“You gotta remember, these guys have head starts, and we’re carrying a vest, belt, gun, cuffs, Taser. . . . It would be a lot more fair if I didn’t have 20 extra pounds and polyester pants,” a young officer said.
When Saul Del Rivero hopped a fence in pursuit of a bad guy a few years back, an upset Rottweiler was there to greet him.
“I jumped a fence, not knowing the guy went a different way, and I literally touched down and a dog, a Rottweiler, was on my ass,” said Del Rivero, 43, a detective who’s on leave to work for the police union.
“I popped right back over the fence. It was like a hop. I hit the ground, and I jumped right back over,” he said.
Another young officer sometimes trash talks.
“I’ve talked to people as I’m running: ‘I’m going to catch you! Here I come! I’m right behind you! You better stop! My partner’s right around the corner! Here he comes!’ ”
The advice is never heeded, he said.
“I’m good for a couple blocks of all-out running, but they are the same way too,” he said.
“Sometimes they compliment you. One guy on the mobile strike force I was on, he would get compliments, guys would get arrested and tell him, ‘You are f - - - - - - fast.’ . . . I never got that compliment.”
The Chicago Police Department does not require officers to pass physical fitness tests after they are hired.
“That’s pretty common,” said Bill Johnson, executive director for the National Association of Police Organizations, an umbrella group of police unions. “Just about every department has some initial testing before they’ve been hired, but once the officer is on the job there’s usually not any continuing testing. There may be departments out there that do it, but they’re in the minority.”
The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police “encourages officers to stay in shape,” said FOP spokesman Pat Camden, who noted that just about every officer can expect to be involved in at least one foot chase in his or her career.