Even though there are troubling signs that the Chicago Police Department’s use of stop and frisk is unlawful, the Chicago Police Department does not record stop and frisks in a way that reflects the full picture of what is happening on the streets of Chicago. Chicago does not have a single database of all stops available to the public and officers make no records of frisks.

The City is well aware of the problems associated with the lack of a comprehensive stops database. The ACLU has repeatedly asked the City to set up such a database and to conform to best practices as outlined by the United States Department of Justice. WBEZ has also reported on how the City’s poor data practices have kept the practice hidden from appropriate scrutiny.(22)

Chicago’s recordkeeping practices place our city increasingly out of step with other major cities across the country. New York City and Newark, New Jersey have made their stop and frisk data publicly available online.(23) Other cities like Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Los Angeles have collected this data for review by the Department of Justice.(24) See Appendix for a review DOJ investigations and remedies. Chicago too should have a public, comprehensive database of stops and frisks to aid police supervisors in their review of officers and to make this practice more transparent to the public.


In Chicago, police officers are required to record Terry stops on “contact cards.”(25) However, they are only required to use a contact card to record when and why they stop someone if it does not lead to an arrest.(26) For arrest reports, there is no instruction for officers to identify arrests that were based on a Terry stop.(27) As a result, not all Terry stops are recorded in the contact card database or otherwise identified as stops.

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This recordkeeping deficiency makes it impossible to calculate an important measure of the abusiveness of the stops – the rate of innocent people stopped compared to all stops. In New York City, where such data is available to the public, it was possible to compare the number of stops of innocent people to the number of all stops, including those that led to arrest. Studies showed that 88% of people stopped between January 2004 and June 2012 were never arrested or issued a summons.(28) In Chicago, it is impossible for the public – or the police department itself – to determine how often people who are stopped are charged with a crime.

B. THE CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT DOES NOT MONITOR WHEN AND WHY PEOPLE ARE FRISKED. The Chicago Police Department’s order on contact cards does not require officers to record when they frisk or pat down a civilian. Also, officers are not required to record all facts establishing reasonable suspicion that the subject is armed and dangerous. If a stop and frisk does not lead to criminal charges, no judge will ever review whether it was lawful. And since stops and frisks occur on the street, without proper documentation, supervisors cannot assess whether they are lawful. Supervisors thus have no opportunity to review the constitutionality of these frisks, and there is no disclosure of this information to the public.

Officers are also not required to separately identify when a frisk is associated with an arrest. Therefore, there is no record of the total number of frisks or how often weapons or other contraband are found as a result. The frequency of how often weapons or other contraband is found is one benchmark of the propriety of a stop and frisk program. For example, in New York City, fewer than 2% of frisked people were found with weapons.(29)

(22) See Elliott Ramos, Poor data keeps Chicago’s stop and frisk hidden from scrutiny, WBEZ, (Sept.12, 2013), available at http://www.wbez.org/news/poor-data-keeps-chicagos-stop-and-frisk-hidden-scrutiny-108670.
(23) See Newark Police Department General Order, Transparency Policy, 2013-03, S-3 (July 8, 2013), available at https://archive.org/stream/725268-newark-police-dept-general-order/725268-newark-police-dept-general-order_djvu.txt; see also N.Y. Code § 14-150.
(24) See also Investigation of the New Orleans Police Department, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION, (Mar.16, 2011) available at www.justice.gov/crt/about/spl/nopd.php.
(25) Special Order, S04-13-09, Part III (B), effective Jan. 7, 2015. Chicago Police Department Special Orders, General Orders, and the forms cited in this report are available at http://directives.chicagopolice.org/directives/.
(26) Id.
(27) See CPD-11.420, Form Preparation Instructions, available at http://directives.chicagopolice.org/lt2014/forms/CPD-11.420-A.pdf.
(28) Floyd v. City of New York, 959 F. Supp. 2d 540, 558-9 n. 16 (S.D.N.Y. 2013), appeal dismissed (Sept. 25, 2013).
(29) Id. at 559 n. 16.
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