In a Chicago Sun-Times article Wednesday, Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel was urged to rein in police spying after the city agreed to pay and publicly absolve an international peace and justice organization investigated in the run-up to a 2002 business conference in Chicago.
The Quaker-based American Friends Service Committee was one of several groups investigated by the Chicago Police Department prior to the Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue.
The major business meeting had triggered violent protests across the country. The Daley administration was determined to avoid similar unrest in Chicago.
The police department’s notorious Red Squad had spied on, infiltrated and harassed political groups in violation of the First Amendment. A now-dissolved 1982 consent decree that reined in police spying required the city to audit compliance and publicly disclose investigative targets.
On Tuesday, the city agreed to settle a claim filed jointly by the Quaker group and the American Civil Liberties Union that accused the police department of overstepping its bounds in a way that damaged the reputation of a group with no history of violence.
Under the agreement, the city agreed to pay $7,500 to the ACLU and $5,000 to the AFSC. The Daley administration also acknowledged that its 2002 investigation “revealed no evidence that the AFSC ... had engaged in any conduct constituting a threat to public safety ... or a violation of any criminal law.”
“This is the fall-out from no longer having a spy suit consent decree in place. Without reasonable guidelines on the collection of intelligence information, the city is free to investigate the activities of law-abiding organizations,” said ACLU legal director Harvey Grossman.