Credit: [Photo illustration by Burlingham/Shutterstock]

Editor’s Note: Over the next few days, we’re running our favorite Reporter stories of 2014. This story was originally posted on Jan. 23, 2014.

Chicago police have long been criticized for interpreting the Constitution in different ways depending on which neighborhood they patrol.

People living in a white neighborhood, or a wealthy one, are rarely stopped or frisked. Replace “white” and “wealthy” with “brown” and “poor,” and the odds increase.  “All of a sudden, you’re a suspect,” civil rights attorney Craig Futterman says.

More confrontations with police heighten the chances of a deadly encounter–particularly for people of color.

New data released Wednesday by the City of Chicago Independent Police Review Authority show African Americans are 10 times more likely to be shot by a Chicago police officer than a white person.

“In black and Latino, lower-income neighborhoods you will see police officers who are instructed to stop and frisk and aggressively search every day,” says Futterman who founded the University of Chicago’s Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project. “These opportunities for conflict to escalate present themselves. And they often do.”

The data show the odds of being shot by a police officer go up for all races in the most aggressively policed neighborhoods, which happen to be mostly black and brown.

It’s worth pointing out the number of police-involved shootings fell to a five-year low in 2013. Last year, 42 people were shot by a Chicago police officer. The numbers have fluctuated since 2009, the first year that IPRA began publishing the numbers. The high mark was 61 in 2009.

Whether the numbers are up or down, the fact that nine out of every 10 police-involved shootings involves a person of color underscores the dual interpretation of the Constitution, where communities of color are policed with excessive force and illegal searches and white ones are not.  As we’ve reported before, the city has paid out millions to settle related lawsuits. Yet, rarely are members of the police force found culpable. Even when a life is lost.


is a staff reporter at The Chicago Reporter.

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