Stop-and-frisk down 80% in Chicago but Black and Latinx people still hit the hardest, judge finds

President Donald Trump took aim at the Chicago Police Department as a new report details reform efforts ushered in by an agreement with the ACLU.

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Photo by Sophia Nahli Allison

Years after an agreement between the Chicago Police Department and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois to reform stop-and-frisk policies in Chicago, Black and Latinx people were stopped at the same rate, according to the judge overseeing its implementation.

The amount of stops has declined 80% since the beginning of 2016, when the changes were implemented. Despite the dramatic decline, there was no factual proof to assume the agreement played a role, according to the third report from retired Judge Arlander Keys. 

“There were far too many stops in the summer of 2014 and ‘15 and ‘13. We were at the Chicago police for stopping people at a rate four times the number that were stopped in New York at the height of their use of stop and frisk,” said Karen Sheley, director of Police Practices Project at ACLU. “I believe there was tremendous pressure on police officers to stop people at that high rate and it wasn’t sustainable. And it had dramatic consequences in terms of community trust in the police. So the stops fell because they had to fall.”

This graph compares stops before and after the agreement. While the number of stops dramatically declined, black and Latinx still accounted for most of the stops.

CPD reported making 1,321,506 stops between January 2014 and December 2015.  Between January 2016 and December 2017, officers made just 216,258 stops, according to the report.

Black people made up 71.8% of the stops, rising .4% over two years. The number of Hispanic people stopped also rose about 3%, according to the statistics.

The agreement intended to ensure CPD’s use of stop-and-frisk, or what was termed ‘investigatory stop and protective pat downs,’ was legally justified and didn’t disproportionately affect Black and Latino communities in Chicago. Between 2015 and 2016, Illinois also enacted laws imposing stricter data requirements from police departments and the U.S. Department of Justice investigated excessive use of force by officers resulting in the consent decree, the report said.

Between 2011 and 2016, Chicago settled 120 police misconduct lawsuits over cases of stop-and-frisk, costing the city more than $10 million, according to The Chicago Reporter’s Settling for Misconduct database.

Trump on federal oversight of police

At the International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference in Chicago on Monday, President Donald Trump took aim at federal consent decrees saying they “tie down local police departments” and that “no longer will federal bureaucrats hinder your police.”

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The Kim Foxx effect: how prosecutions have changed in Cook County

He would be “waiting for a call from Chicago,” Trump said after disparaging CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who boycotted the conference. 

“This president is known for doing a lot of talking about the city of Chicago,”  said Johnson at a press conference following the remarks. “But if he’s truly ready to roll up his sleeves to partner with us, so are we — as long as that partnership reflects who we are as Chicagoans.”

During the hour long speech, he also took aim — though he didn’t name — prosecutors and politicians who have worked to lower drug and theft prosecutions.

“This is a fundamental violation of their sworn duty,” Trump said.

A recent analysis of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s first two years in office, published by The Chicago Reporter in partnership with The Marshall Project and The Pudding, found she turned away nearly 5,000 cases that the previous state’s attorney would have prosecuted. They were mostly low-level shoplifting and drug offenses.

The state’s attorney’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Ensuring data is collected accurately 

Using ‘toughness’ as a policing strategy has failed in Chicago and elsewhere because it doesn’t build trust between officers and the community, the ACLU of Illinois said in response to the President’s remarks Monday.

“That trust can only be built by implementing the historic consent decree currently being overseen by a federal judge, a decree that restricts police use of force. The president appears completely oblivious to this decree and the reforms underway here,”  ACLU of Illinois said in a statement.

According to the stop-and-frisk agreement, which went into effect a year before Trump took office, reports would be issued on six months worth of data at a time until the department is in compliance for two periods. 

This report instead covers a year’s worth of data. The main difference between this report and the others is that it focuses on supervision and documentation of the stops, said Sheley. 

When reviewing if stops were constitutional, supervisors were often labeling stops as having technical problems when really they had no constitutional justification, she said.

“That led to officers being allowed to write and rewrite and rewrite their justification in an attempt to write a constitutional justification. Our concern is that that their focus is on trying to get the form right, not trying to get the stop right,” said Sheley. “What the agreement requires is that the stops on the street themselves are constitutional, not the paper.”

Judge Keys stated that he will hold off on determination of compliance with the agreement until he can be confident in the collection of data. The ACLU outlined a series of steps the department could take to improve the accuracy of the data. 

“While this data from 2017 indicates that more improvements can be made, Chicago Police officers are trained to only stop citizens based on reasonable suspicion that a crime has been or is about to be committed and in response to calls for service,” said Anthony Guglielmi, chief communications officer for CPD. “Given the significant investments in professional development, accountability and reinvigorated officer training, there is simply no place in this city or department for unconstitutional behavior or practices.”

The department said it has recently overhauled its training program to emphasize good judgement, he said.

The recent report provides more context for an earlier ACLU analysis of traffic stops. That report shows just as the number of stop-and-frisks was on the decline, traffic stops in Chicago tripled. Black drivers accounted for the majority of this increase between 2015 and 2017.

“The dramatic increase in the number of traffic stops is very concerning. We do not know the reason for the increase,” said Sheley, pointing further questions to the police department.

The data collection around traffic stops was set to end in June, but a new law approved last summer made the collection permanent