City of Chicago officials committed to a series of specific steps designed to address the practice of pedestrian stops and pat downs (colloquially known as stop and frisk) after the latest critical report on the process from former U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys. 

The report shows, as an example, that 70% of all pedestrian stops are conducted on African Americans in Chicago, despite the reality that African Americans comprise only 33% of the City’s population. This high percentage of focus on African Americans has remained consistent over the past several years, making clear that the practice of pedestrian stops disproportionately impacts communities of color in Chicago. 

The City of Chicago is responding with a promise to fix the process for recording stops and pat downs by Chicago police officers. Judge Keys details an unsystematic process where officers are allowed to rewrite reports about pedestrian stops, when the initial report failed to contain a constitutional reason for stopping and searching someone on Chicago’s streets.  Officers have been permitted to change the reports up to seven (7) times –with assistance or “coaching” from supervisors. The number of reports that have been changed multiple times has increased in recent years, going up by 10% in one recent quarter. 

After reviewing the report, the City outlined a number of specific steps to review and reform the process of collecting and reporting the data, including the way that supervisors interact with officers on these reports.   

“The City has committed to make substantial and important changes to how it reports and analyzes pedestrian stops,” said Karen Sheley, Director of the Police Practices Project for the ACLU of Illinois. “These stops are serious events in people’s lives – people are pressed against a wall or automobile with a police officer placing their hands inside their pockets or their clothing. There must be a constitutional reason for every stop and search before an officer undertakes it. Critically, the City has also agreed to address the racial disparities in these stops, rather than fight about whether the disparities exist.”  

Judge Keys’ report is the latest analysis emanating from a 2015 agreement between the City of Chicago and the ACLU. The agreement followed an ACLU report showing that stop and frisk was used more than four times as often in Chicago as compared to New York City. The ACLU report also demonstrated that people of color were far more likely to be stopped and searched than white Chicago residents. 

Judge Keys report discusses at length meetings that he, as Consultant, had with Chicago residents. Judge Keys tells the harrowing story of one young man, who was stopped and searched by police with a gun pointed in his face. Other community members told of being searched in a fashion that made clear the police were looking for marijuana and other drugs, not firearms and other weapons that would justify the search. Additionally, community members report receiving no apology or explanation when nothing was found.  Judge Keys, an African American male who has lived and worked in the area for decades, notes that while many residents in predominantly African American communities are aware of the constitutional standards for a pedestrian stop and search, “it means nothing in their world.”   

Judge Keys also noted a “sea change” in the cooperation between the parties. This cooperation led directly to the City’s agreement to improve this process. CPD will review its process for collecting data about pedestrian stops and pat downs and address the inadequacy of the data currently being collected. The Consultant observed that the process for collecting data is so flawed that it makes true analysis of the situation nearly impossible.  

“If it takes an officer up to seven times to justify a stop, one has to ask how many of these stops were lawful to begin with,” added the ACLU’s Sheley. “When you consider the number of stops that take place it is clear that Chicago residents of color have been subject to unconstitutional searches at the hands of CPD officers.”