The Division of Public Safety and its police officers are professional and service-minded.
The University of Illinois Police Department has earned Tier II accreditation from the Illinois Law Enforcement Accreditation Program — that’s the highest level any department in Illinois can receive. Our policies have been vetted to ensure they are consistent with the most recent legislation, case law and industry best practices.
Our goal is to be transparent about how we serve our community. We recognize and acknowledge that people have questions about how we serve, and we want to be open and responsive to those questions — and criticisms. That’s why we make our policy manual available for public viewing.
Frequently asked policy questions
We know the policy manual is a large document and it may be difficult to find what you are looking for. For ease of access to information, here are some of the most common questions we receive about our policies:
Are police officers at UIPD trained to de-escalate by using passive strategies?
Cooperation is always the preferred outcome in every interaction we have, and our officers are trained to use de-escalation techniques to help achieve that goal. Through policy and training, our officers make practical attempts at verbal de-escalation before they move to physical use of force, and those decisions are based on the actions and words of the person with whom an officer is interacting. Officers receive training in verbal de-escalation techniques. The University of Illinois Police Training Institute in Champaign is one of the foremost resources on verbal de-escalation, and it is a wonderful resource which we access.
When does UIPD identify an alleged offender’s race in mass communications to campus?
We rarely include racial descriptors in campus notices. From 2017 through July 2022, we issued 75 safety notices. We identified the suspects’ race in four of those notices — of those four, the suspects were described as black in three notices, and described as white in one notice.
Racial descriptions do not, by themselves, offer a meaningful picture of an individual’s appearance. Therefore, we only include racial descriptions of alleged offenders in campus alerts when that description includes other unique characteristics that helps the description to identify an individual and not a group of people. For example, if a witness provides information about an unusual tattoo or information about the vehicle that the alleged offender used to leave the area, then the inclusion of this information, along with a racial description of the suspect, helps to provide a more complete picture of that individual’s appearance for identification purposes.
This is a restrictive policy in that we start from the assumption that we will not include racial descriptor unless it is accompanied by other information specific enough that the full description identifies an individual and not a population of people. It is very often the case that witnesses are unable to provide us with those unique descriptors. In those cases, we do not include any information about the alleged offender’s race.
Do UIPD officers use chokeholds?
No. Chokeholds were banned by an Illinois state law enacted in 2016. Additionally, chokeholds have not been a part of UIPD training for years.
Are UIPD officers required to intervene if they witness another officer using excessive or illegal methods to control an individual?
Yes. Our policy states, “Any officer present and observing another law enforcement officer or a member using force that is clearly beyond that which is objectively reasonable under the circumstances shall, when in a position to do so, intercede to prevent the use of unreasonable force.” Additionally, UIPD officers are required to report those incidents to a supervisor immediately, and in writing to the Deputy Chief within five days.
Are the officers at UIPD allowed to shoot at moving vehicles?
Our policy states, “When feasible, officers should take reasonable steps to move out of the path of an approaching vehicle instead of discharging their firearm at the vehicle or any of its occupants. An officer should only discharge a firearm at a moving vehicle or its occupants when the officer reasonably believes there are no other reasonable means available to avert the imminent threat of the vehicle, or its occupants, or if deadly force other than the vehicle is directed at the officer or others. Officers should not shoot at any part of a vehicle in an attempt to disable the vehicle.”
We must be clear — this would occur only under the most extreme scenarios and, even then, is not the preferred option.
Is there a clear standard that limits the types of force and/or weapons that can be used to respond to specific types of resistance?
Yes. Our officers are trained to respond to the resistance exhibited by an individual, and to be prepared to adjust their actions quickly based on the words and actions of the person with whom they are interacting. The policy states, “Officers shall use only that amount of force that reasonably appears necessary given the facts and circumstances perceived by the officer at the time of the event to accomplish a legitimate law enforcement purpose.”
The policy further states that, “When circumstances reasonably permit, officers should use non-violent strategies and techniques to decrease the intensity of a situation, improve decision-making, improve communication, reduce the need for force, and increase voluntary compliance (e.g., summoning additional resources, formulating a plan, attempting verbal persuasion).”
Are officers at UIPD required to exhaust every other possible option before using deadly force?
Deadly force is never the preferred option, and UIPD officers are trained to make attempts to de-escalate when it is practical and safe to do so. However, the most extreme incidents often play out in a matter of seconds or less. When there is not a reasonable opportunity to make attempts at de-escalation, officers are authorized to use the force necessary — including deadly force — if the officer or another person is at imminent risk of death or great bodily harm. The appropriate tactic depends on the situation.
Are officers at UIPD required to give verbal warning to civilians before drawing their weapon or using an elevated level of force?
Yes, when it’s reasonable to do so. UIPD policy states, “Where feasible, a peace officer shall, prior to the use of force, make reasonable efforts to identify himself or herself as a peace officer and to warn that deadly force may be used, unless the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is aware of those facts.”
Are officers at UIPD required to report each time they use force?
Yes. The policy states, “Any use of force by a member of this department shall be documented promptly, completely, and accurately in an appropriate report, depending on the nature of the incident. The officer should articulate the factors perceived and why he/she believed the use of force was reasonable under the circumstances.”
Does UIPD track data on officer-involved shootings?
Yes. As a result of our detailed tracking of use of force, UIPD does keep records on officer-involved shootings. But officer-involved shootings are a very infrequent occurrence at UIPD. In the last 10 years, UIPD officers have fired their weapons in only two incidents, neither of which were fatal. In its history, UIPD has only been involved in one fatal officer-involved shooting, and that was in 2009. All officer-involved shootings are investigated by a multijurisdictional task force, which generates extensive detailed records about each incident.
Are UIPD officers thoroughly vetted to ensure that they do not have a history with abuse, racism, xenophobia, homophobia/transphobia, or discrimination?
We conduct extensive screening of new recruits as they are hired. This includes a detailed criminal background check, psychological exam and checks of any social media accounts that are visible to the public. This process would identify and eliminate anyone who has expressed attitudes that would lead us to believe that they are not capable of treating every person with fairness and dignity. Additionally, our existing officers are expected to conduct themselves in a way that demonstrates our community-based values at all times. Officers must behave in a professional and dignified manner both on- and off-duty. This is written into our department policy, and violations are subject to discipline, including termination in severe cases.
What kind of training do UIPD officers receive to combat implicit bias and systemic racism?
All UIPD officers complete regular training in the following areas: civil rights, cultural competency, human rights, mental health awareness, procedural justice, and use of force, among others. Below is a sampling of courses that UIPD officers attend: Balancing our Biases; Communication in the Police Environment; Community Awareness Training; Constitutional Authority; Cultural Competency; Hate crimes; Illinois Human Rights Act; Mental Health Intervention and De-escalation; Policing Demonstrations, Protests and Civil Unrest.
UIPD is proactive in sending officers to these courses when opportunities are available.
Additionally, the majority of UIPD officers are trained in crisis intervention, which provides the skills and abilities for officers to recognize when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis and the appropriate techniques for de-escalating and providing resources to that individual. Although this training does not directly address systemic bias and racism in our community, many of these issues are interrelated.
Several officers, civilian staff and command staff at UIPD have graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Five Days for Change program, which teaches cultural and racial sensitivity, implicit bias, and strategies to intervene in situations where racism or bias are affecting an individual or the community.
Are officers trained to render medical aid in instances where someone is injured as a result of the officer’s use of force?
Yes. Officers are trained and equipped to render first aid and call for a medical response. UIPD policy states that, “Once it is reasonably safe to do so, medical assistance shall be obtained for any person who exhibits signs of physical distress, has sustained visible injury, expresses a complaint of injury or continuing pain, or was rendered unconscious.”
Is there a system to correct officers who do not act in accordance with department policy?
Yes. Our officers are evaluated by their supervisors on a regular basis in order to catch any negative patterns or trends and to reinforce positive behavior. These evaluations also happen in real time if a supervisor has concerns about an officer’s performance. Additionally, UIPD regularly reviews body-worn camera and in-car camera footage as early detection of concerning behavior or patterns. As university employees, our officers are subject to the same disciplinary procedures as other university employees, which involves an escalating series of disciplinary actions if the officer fails to correct their behavior. In extreme cases, officers can be terminated on a first offense.
How many complaints can an officer receive before they are disciplined?
There is no requisite number of complaints that would lead to immediate discipline or termination. Even one sustained complaint could lead to disciplinary action up to and including termination, depending on its severity. The University of Illinois Police Department received 10 citizen complaints between 2017 and 2022. Of those 10, two alleged bias. UIPD has more than 12,000 formal contacts with citizens each year.
What is the standard by which use of force is reviewed?
Throughout the country, use of force reviews are based on legal precedents established in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Graham v. Connor (1989). Justices wrote that “the reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on scene, rather than the 20/20 vision of hindsight.” This means that the totality of information known to the officer at the time of action, not what is learned thereafter, is the basis upon which such police use of force actions shall be reviewed. Reasonableness requires a careful balancing of the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual against countervailing governmental interests. The severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight are the major factors which were outlined in Graham v. Connor in determining reasonableness.
Does UIPD work with ICE to enforce immigration laws?
No. The University of Illinois Police Department does not inquire about anyone’s immigration status, nor do we enforce federal immigration laws. We do not hold any person solely on the basis of a federal immigration detainer. We do not work with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unless we are legally obligated to do so after being presented with a criminal warrant signed by a judge.
University Police can assist crime victims or witnesses in obtaining temporary immigration visas.