The ACLU of Illinois filed a lawsuit in October 2011 to challenge the long-time practice of failing to ensure that police are deployed equitably across the City of Chicago’s many diverse neighborhoods, resulting in delayed police responses to emergency calls in neighborhoods with higher minority populations. Neighborhoods with significant ethnic minority populations in Chicago are more likely to have slower response rates to emergency calls and higher rates of serious violent crimes, as compared to predominately white neighborhoods. Overall, in July 2013, residents in minority districts waited approximately twice as long for an officer to be dispatched to calls where life or property were in danger.
The City moved to dismiss the suit, arguing that the case raised a “political question” and therefore could not go forward. In October 2012, the court issued a decision granting the City’s motion to dismiss on the basis that the complaint poses a non-justiciable political question. We appealed the trial court’s dismissal and in November 2013, the appellate court reversed the dismissal and returned the case to the trial court.
After a long pause in litigation aimed at allowing the City to produce a plan that would address the historic problems with deployment, we were able to reach a settlement in October 2021. Under the agreement reached in the litigation, the City promised to make the following improvements to address inequitable police response times to call for service in neighborhoods that are predominantly people of color as compared to largely white neighborhoods:
- Continuing efforts to collect data about 911 calls, including the police response time for each call. Currently, the City says it is able to produce data for only around 60% of all calls; they pledge to improve that percentage to 80% within three years;
- The publication of data about police response times to call for service (on a district-by-district basis) each month. This reporting will begin within three months of approval of the agreement; and
- Incorporation of the principle of equitable police response to calls for service into any new staffing plan developed under the federal consent decree guiding systemic reform of CPD.