Chicago police officers reported making more than a half million stops last year on the city streets, continuing to stop Black and Brown motorists at rates disproportionate to their numbers in the driving population. The findings are drawn from data submitted by the Chicago Police Department (CPD) to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and released on Monday afternoon as part of the annual Illinois Traffic and Pedestrian Stop Statistical Study Act report. IDOT has been analyzing this data for more than two decades based on reporting from law enforcement agencies across the state. 

CPD stopped more than 535,000 drivers during 2023.  That number is about a 5% increase from 2022, and reflects a massive growth in stops since 2015, when CPD reported stopping about 85,000 drivers. 

In 2023, CPD officers stopped Black drivers at a rate 3.75 times that of white drivers and stopped Latino drivers at a rate 2.73 times that of white drivers. These disparities are similar to racial disparities reported in prior years in Chicago. CPD has never explained why it disproportionately stops Black and Latino drivers. 

IDOT’s report also shows that CPD’s traffic stops continued to yield almost no public safety benefits in 2023. Merely 0.41% of traffic stops resulted in officers finding any contraband (such as weapons or drugs) after they searched a driver’s vehicle. And officers were more likely to find contraband in vehicles driven by white people, even though they were more likely to search cars driven by Black people.

The new data comes as the ACLU of Illinois filed an amended complaint in Wilkins v. Chicago, a case challenging CPD’s racially discriminatory traffic stops. The case alleges that CPD is violating the constitutional and statutory rights of Black and Latino drivers by disproportionately targeting them for pretextual traffic stops—stops that are an excuse to fish for evidence of criminal activity without suspicion, not to make the roads safer. 

The amended complaint alleges that three of the five plaintiffs in the case have been stopped again by CPD in the twelve months since the original lawsuit was filed. In fact, two of the plaintiffs have been stopped three times each. This shows, according to the ACLU of Illinois, that the City of Chicago’s mass traffic stop program continues unabated.

The repeated stops of the Wilkins plaintiffs also fit a pattern seen across the state.  The IDOT report released on Monday notes that “(i)ndividual Black drivers who were stopped by police [in Illinois] in 2023 had a 36% higher chance of being stopped two to three times…. (and) are nine times more likely to be stopped 10 times than white drivers to be stopped.”

“CPD’s own data shows that officers disproportionately target Black and Brown drivers for traffic stops in Chicago. Our clients are experiencing this firsthand, even after they sued to try to end CPD’s mass traffic stop program,” said Alexandra Block, Director of the Criminal Legal System and Policing Project at the ACLU of Illinois. “Pretextual traffic stops do not make Chicago safer. They only undermine the legitimacy of law enforcement in the public’s view. It is time for Chicago to prohibit these abusive and humiliating pretextual traffic stops.” 

In early June, U.S. District Court Judge Mary Rowland of the Northern District of Illinois mostly denied the City’s request to dismiss the Wilkins case, ruling that the central claims in the case had legal merit and should move forward. On June 26, Judge Rowland denied from the bench a request from CPD to suspend the Wilkins case indefinitely as CPD attempts to bring regulation of traffic stops under the consent decree reform process. 

“This latest data — and the experience of our clients — makes it even more urgent that the Wilkins case moves forward expeditiously,” added Block. “Another half million Chicago drivers are likely to be stopped this year — primarily Black and Brown drivers. It is not lawful nor fair nor effective policing and needs to stop.”

The Wilkins plaintiffs are represented by the ACLU of Illinois and the law firm Arnold & Porter.