Study: Chicago stop-and-frisk numbers drop, more work needed
The study revealed a dramatic decrease in the number of stops since an ACLU of Illinois lawsuit, but found that officers were still targeting racial minorities
By Don Babwin and Sophia Tareen
CHICAGO — A study of the Chicago Police Department's stop-and-frisk procedures released Friday revealed a dramatic decrease in the number of stops since an American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois lawsuit, but found that officers were still targeting racial minorities.
The report by former U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys, the first one issued under an agreement the city reached with the ACLU in 2015, was not surprising to ACLU officials. The organization expected the decrease because of changes in the law and a deal the organization reached with the department that requires officers to fill out more detailed reports of stops than they once did.
According to the report, the number of investigatory stops fell from more than 1.3 million in 2014 and 2015 to just over 54,000 in the first six months of 2016.
"We needed something to change, those numbers just could not continue," said Karen Sheley, director of Police Practices Project at the ACLU of Illinois. She said the rate of stops in Chicago on a per capita basis was more than four times than it was in New York. The number of stops has dropped dramatically in New York as well.
Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the department would "carefully review the recommendations" and work on implementing reforms while "protecting civil rights of the public." And Chicago's city attorney, Edward Siskel, said the report documents the city's "dedication to fully adopting the new policies and procedures."
But Sheley said more work needs to be done, pointing out that while the number of stops has dropped, blacks still make up more than 70 percent of those who are stopped even though they account for about a third of Chicago's population.
During the presidential campaign last fall, then-nominee Donald Trump endorsed the stop-and-frisk policing method for Chicago when calling the city out for its high number of homicides and shootings. But a federal judge earlier ruled that New York City's practice was unconstitutional because of its overwhelming impact on minority residents.
The new report comes as Chicago police are trying to regain public trust in the wake of a video that shows a white officer fatally shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald in 2014. An ensuing Justice Department report this year found the Police Department had a long history of civil rights violations and excessive force.
The report also included a statistic that might surprise those who criticized the department, both on and off the force, when the 2015 agreement with the ACLU was reached. At the time, critics wondered if reducing the number of stops might decrease the number of illegal guns taken off the street. But the report found that of the 18,364 stops involving a pat-down search, frequently called stop-and-frisk, 465 weapons were recovered — a fraction of the thousands of guns the department takes off the street every year.
"They don't get a lot of guns from those stops anyway," Sheley said.