Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois released a report on the Chicago Police Department's "misuse" of "stop and frisk" practices. Chicago police accountability activists say they have secured an upcoming meeting with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, during which they plan to demand an end to the city's stop and frisk tactics.
Chicago police far surpass the New York Police Department in the use of "stop and frisk" practices, according to a report issued by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois.
The ACLU's report also alleges that African Americans were disproportionately subjected to such street stops by Chicago police last summer.
In light of the ACLU's findings, police accountability activists demonstrated outside Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office last week, urging him to end stop and frisk practices and act on other policing reforms. Organizers say they have secured an upcoming meeting with the mayor to outline their demands.
For its report, the ACLU based its findings, in part, on Chicago police "contact card" data from last May through August. During that four-month period in 2014, there were over 250,000 stops by Chicago police that did not result in an arrest, the ACLU found. In half of the stops reviewed by the ACLU, "the officer did not record legally sufficient reasons to establish reasonable suspicion," the report reads
From May through August, Chicago had a rate of 93.6 police stops per 1,000 residents. That's four times greater than New York City's peak high of 22.9 stops per 1,000 residents during the same time period in 2011. New York City's controversial stop and frisk program was scaled back after a federal judge found the police's use of such tactics to be unconstitutional in August of 2013.
"While most of the media coverage has suggested that stop and frisk was a New York phenomena - it's misuse is not limited to New York," Harvey Grossman, legal director for the ACLU of Illinois, said in a statement. "Chicago has been systematically abusing this practice, for reasons that are not justified by our constitution. And just like New York, we see that African Americans are singled out for these searches."
ACLU's review found that African Americans were subjected to 72 percent of all Chicago police stops from May through August, despite only representing about 32 percent of the city's total population.
Of all Chicago police stops last summer, 17 percent were of Hispanics and 9 percent were of Caucasians, according to the report. Hispanics and Caucasians represent 29 and 32 percent of the city's population, respectively.
Additionally, ACLU's researchers found that communities of color in Chicago are disproportionately targeted for stop and frisk activity.
Since the report's release, ACLU of Illinois staff attorney Karen Sheley said there have been no discussions between the city and the ACLU about the police department's stop and frisk policy and possible reforms.
"Unfortunately, we haven't had a dialogue with the city about this since the report came out, and from everything we can tell, there's been no movement to adopt the reforms that were suggested in the report," Sheley told Progress Illinois.
ACLU's recommendations cited in the report include:
Require police to collect data on all frisks and make the data public to be analyzed and assessed;
Require police to collect data on all stops and make the data public to be analyzed and assessed;
Require regular training for officers on legal requirements for stop-and-frisks;
Require police officers to issue a receipt for every pedestrian stop, with the officer's name, the time of the encounter, the place of the encounter and the reason for the encounter - making it possible to facilitate a civilian complaint regarding the encounter.
"This is the gold standard," Sheley said of the ACLU's recommendations. "What we're recommending is what the Department of Justice recommends when they come into a city and they see evidence of problems with their stop and frisk program. This is the kind of thing that cities should adopt on their own.
"The fact that (Chicago police) were reporting that there were over 250,000 stops last summer indicates we need better data collection and information about what's happening on the streets," she added.
In response to the ACLU's report, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) issued a press statement saying that it "expressly prohibits racial profiling and other bias based policing."
"Over the past three years CPD has improved training to ensure police officers are aware of this prohibition and we will continue these important efforts," the statement said, adding that the department has also updated its contact card policy over the past year.
Chicago officers have to fill out contact cards for stops that do not lead to an arrest or ticket. Contact cards collect information on who was stopped and why the stop occurred. Chicago police are not required to record information about frisks.
The CPD said it has made the following improvements:
- Officers are now required to document more details explaining why a contact card was issued.
- We revised the policy for our officers to more directly focus on those interactions that lead to an investigatory stop.
- We reinforced the new policy and those already on the books - such as ensuring reasonable suspicion exists for the stop - through additional training.
- We added new levels of supervision and accountability.
"People should only be stopped based on crime data and crime information - nothing else," CPD's statement added.
The department cited figures purporting to show that the percentage of police stops by racial group have tracked closely with the percentage of case report suspects by racial group over the past two years. The CPD notes that the reported crime suspects were identified by a third party. CPD did not immediately return Progress Illinois' follow-up request for backup data to support its figures.
Chicagoans Demand Action In Light Of ACLU's 'Stop And Frisk' Findings
After the ACLU released its report, protesters demonstrated outside Emanuel's City Hall office, demanding, in part, that the CPD discontinue stop and frisk tactics. They further demanded reforms to the city's police body camera pilot program and policies around investigating police misconduct, among other issues.
The Chicago-based Community Renewal Society (CRS), a progressive, faith-based group advocating for social and economic justice, was one of the organizations behind the demonstration. CRS organizing director Alex Wiesendanger said his group and others have been asking for a meeting with Emanuel to discuss policing reforms since December.
Three people were arrested at lastTuesday's protest because they reportedly disobeyed police orders to remain inside a roped-off area while demonstrating. Wiesendanger said the arrested protesters were attempting to enter Emanuel's office to request a meeting with the mayor.
After the three arrests were made, Wiesendanger said representatives from the mayor's office agreed to schedule a face-to-face meeting with Emanuel and a small delegation of the organizers. The meeting is slated for this Saturday morning, Wiesendanger said.
"We expect to hear from our elected mayor that he cares enough about our communities being brutalized by the police to take action on these key issues," Wiesendanger said.
When asked about CPD's claims that it has improved its stop and frisk program, Wiesendanger said, "All those things they are claiming are entirely internal."
"They refuse to actually reform any public data," he said. "They refuse to make data public, and so what they're saying is that while the experience of our communities continues to be one of harassment, they're just saying, 'Trust us.' But none of us have seen any data that would express that they're changing it ... If the police really want to demonstrate that they care about this issue, then there are plenty of very clear demands that they can do around actually reforming contact cards and making all of the data public and transparent, which they've resisted and refused to do so far."
Sheley noted that transparency problems involving stop and frisk data are not limited to Chicago.
The ACLU is in the process of reviewing stop and frisk programs and data collection practices used in other Illinois cities. Thus far, Sheley said the ACLU has not found any Illinois city collecting data and making it public in the manner suggested by the ACLU. And a number of Illinois cities, she added, are "not collecting very much data at all."
Uniform standards on stop and frisk practices and data collection could be implemented at the state level, Sheley said.
Wiesendanger said draft legislation has been floated in Springfield aiming to address standards on contact card data collection and transparency. Additionally, state lawmakers with the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus are sponsoring a package of police reform bills seeking to establish uniform rules on, among other things, the use of police body cameras.
CRS wants Emanuel to actively advocate for the pending police reform legislation in Springfield.
"The first thing that's going to happen when these bills are heard is people are going to say, 'Where does the city [of Chicago] stand?'" Wiesendanger said. "The mayor needs to be out front and leading on that, or these bills won't move."