September 14, 2021

This morning, Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced an ordinance in the Chicago City Council aimed at using the failed policy of civil asset forfeiture to address gun violence in the City. he following statement can be attributed to Colleen Connell, Executive Director of the ACLU of Illinois:

Members of City Council should quickly reject the Mayor’s proposal to use a recycled city version of a harmful state civil asset forfeiture law. Taking property from people – including innocent family members and others – is not an effective way to reduce gun violence. Similar attempts have been tried in surrounding cities, and the public promises of forfeiture of gang member assets did not materialize.

The Mayor’s time would be better spent on the real work of reducing violence, which includes investing in communities, reforming police practices and expanding access to social and mental health services.

It is astonishing to hear the Mayor and law enforcement officials pretend that this power would be used solely in a targeted fashion against gang members. The City had to scrap use of its flawed gang database because it included thousands people without who had no history of gang membership or criminal involvement. It is hard to see how their capacity about who to target has improved since that time.  

It also is troubling to see City officials embrace this anti-democratic measure. Today – right now – the City already enjoys the power to utilize the state law. The City can ask the Cook County State’s Attorney, an elected official responsible to the voters of the County, to file such a matter. The ordinance under consideration substitute an unelected Corporation Counsel with accountability solely to one person, the Mayor. 

Chicago needs more accountability, not less. The Council must reject this proposal.