Imagine just walking down the street, on your way to the store, to the dry cleaners or to visit a friend. Suddenly, you are approached by police, who surround you, ask your name, push you up against a wall and search you – going through your pockets and perhaps even putting their hands inside your clothing. This is not a dystopian nightmare of some security state – it is the reality of life on Chicago streets for youth on the South and West sides in the City.
The ACLU is committed to fighting back and making certain that the practice of stop and frisk is utilized in a constitutional way that does not drive a further divide between the police and the communities they serve.
In March 2014, the ACLU of Illinois issued an eye-opening report that revealed the breadth and discriminatory edge of stop and frisk policies in the City. The report revealed, among other things, that during the summer months of 2013, Chicago Police Department (CPD) conducted stops of more than 250,000 residents – with not a single one of those stops resulting in an arrest. Many of these stops were conducted on the same individual repeatedly.
The data released by the ACLU also finds that police were far more likely to stop African Americans than other residents of Chicago. Although African Americans represent less than one-third of the City’s population, they comprised more than three-quarters of those stopped by police. The discriminatory stops of African Americans were even worse in predominantly white neighborhoods.
The report threatened ACLU litigation, created an opportunity for negotiations with the City of Chicago to reform the discriminatory police practice of stopping pedestrians on city streets. Those productive discussions led in August 2015 to a landmark agreement between the City and the ACLU, designed to provide more transparency and more oversight.
The keystone of the agreement is the appointment of an independent consultant, former federal magistrate judge Arlander Keys, to review the policies and practices used by Chicago police and the impact of those policies and practices. Judge Keys has access to all data around pedestrian stops, including not just the numbers of stops but a written narrative of the reasons for the stop, required to be provided after each stop to determine if the stop was lawful. Based on this review, Judge Keys and consultants he has retained will be able to make corrective recommendations to the City to improve CPD’s practices.