In October 2011, the ACLU of Illinois filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of itself and the Central Austin Neighborhood Association (CANA) challenging the manner in which the Chicago Police Department deploys police officers across the City’s many districts. The ACLU lawsuit – using data that was publicly available and widely known for years – noted that the result of the CPD’s current deployment scheme resulted in a disproportionate number of delayed police responses in neighborhoods with high minority populations, compared with neighborhoods that are predominantly white. The ACLU asserted that this scheme was not permissible under the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003 which makes it unlawful for government to provide services in a manner that has a disparate negative impact on any racial group. Today, October 2, 2012, the Cook County Circuit Court granted the City of Chicago’s motion to dismiss the ACLU lawsuit on the grounds that the issues involved are “political” questions that can only be addressed by the legislative and executive branches, not the courts.
The following can be attributed to the Harvey Grossman, Legal Director for the ACLU of Illinois:
In its Civil Rights Act of 2003, the Illinois General Assembly specifically gave the courts the authority to stop local government practices that have an adverse racially disparate impact. Chicago’s police deployment practices are a classic example of such an inequity.
There simply is no exception in the Civil Rights Act for police deployment.
While the court says in its opinion that this is a “political question” that needs to be addressed by the Mayor and City Council, three decades of inaction (despite the demands of successive police superintendents) for beat reallocation demonstrates clearly that minority communities lack the political power to achieve equal police services through that process. This is why civil rights laws are enacted – to protect minorities with less political power.
The court’s decision today stands as a sad reminder of the continued inequity in police deployment in Chicago. Data just obtained from the City shows that after the much-publicized “reshuffling” of recent months, the number of police per district remains about the same and the inequities – which affect our clients most directly – continue unabated.
We will appeal the decision.