The Chicago Police Department and the ACLU have once again agreed to simplify a burdensome “investigatory stop report,” but the police union says the changes won’t be enough to reverse an 80 percent drop in street stops.
No longer will the two-page form include the names and badge numbers of officers making the stop. That information will only go to a retired federal judge. Personal information about the person stopped will also be eliminated from the form.
“We never really cared about individual officers. What we were looking at was a systemic fix to the abuse of street stops in Chicago,” said ACLU spokesman Ed Yohnka.
Instead of tinkering at the margins, Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo said the “monstrosity of a report” should be scrapped altogether in favor of the “contact cards” that preceded the agreement with the ACLU or an expanded form of it, as used by the Illinois State Police.
In addition, Angelo said the city and the ACLU must remove the shackles that limit street stops to instances where officers either observe criminal behavior spot someone who “fits the description” of someone reported to 911 as having committed a crime.
“It limits stop, question and frisk completely because it was designed by the ACLU and accepted as policy by the department, which is the main contributing factor to the drop in our street stops,” Angelo said.
“People think that police officers are standing down. Police officers aren’t standing down. They’re following policy. They’re doing what the order requires. That’s what everybody’s missing.”
In August, 2015, the ACLU pressed for expanded reporting on investigatory stops in Chicago after releasing a study showing minorities have been predominately targeted for stops here.
The ACLU found Chicago Police officers made more than a 250,000 stops from May through August 2014 without arrests, far more than in New York City at the peak of that police department’s stop-and-frisk practices. Most of those stopped were African-Americans.
The additional information on the investigatory stop reports was intended to help a retired federal magistrate judge evaluate whether officers were following the constitution when they make street stops.
Last year, the form was streamlined after murders spiked and street stops plummeted.
Prior to that earlier change officers were required to fill out three separate narratives: one documenting the reasonable suspicion for the stop; another explaining whether the person was frisked and why; and the third asking whether the officer conducted a search beyond a “protective pat-down” and why.
The three narratives were combined into one. But that change did nothing to reverse the 80 percent decline in street stops or the 60 percent spike in homicides that pushed the death toll on Chicago streets to levels not seen since the 1990s.
Angelo said what’s most infuriating is that he warned police brass of the dire consequences of the ACLU agreement.
“In 2015, when this order was signed, I told the department, ‘We’re gonna be at 700 murders before you know it. The violence is gonna go through the roof and some of our worst neighborhoods are gonna catch on fire.’ It’s like I had a crystal ball,” he said.
Angelo said the Police Department needs to explain to the public what a street stop is and why those stops are pivotal to public safety.
“You have a corner loaded with guys you know are up to no good and have historically been up to no good, because you’ve been working the same beat for…years. They’re in the same spot every day. If they’re out there throwing narcotics or involved in gang activity or intimidation or street robberies, we know these individuals,” Angelo said.
“You [need to] ask them if they’re there for a lawful purpose, if they’re wanted on warrants or in possession of narcotics or weapons. You need to make sure you’re safe, they’re safe and the community is safe. Then, you ask them to kindly continue on their way so you don’t give up the corner. If you lose the corner, you lose the block. If you lose the block, you lose the community and you’re gonna see an uptick in violence.”
Yohnka dismissed as a “fallacy” the notion that the 80 percent drop in street stops is somehow responsible for the 60 percent spike in homicides in Chicago.
He noted that the University of Chicago Crime Lab recently concluded there is “no linkage” between street stops and the crime rate. In fact, when street stops declined in New York City, so did the crime rate, Yohnka said.
“The reason the stops have gone down is because there were too many stops,” Yohnka said.
“The predicate for the stop has to be that there is some reasonable suspicion–some reason to make the stop. Not simply because you want to stop people and gather information.”
In a “60 Minutes” segment broadcast Sunday devastating to Chicago’s image on the world stage, former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy claimed that the 80 percent decline in street stops and a precipitous drop in arrests even as homicides and shootings surged were evidence of a police department “in crisis.”
“The police activity is horrific. Honestly. And there, and there’s not an excuse that could be made in my book. The noncompliance of the law is becoming legitimized. And the police are on their heels. … We’re reaching a state of lawlessness,” McCarthy said.
On Friday, Yohnka accused McCarthy of talking out of both sides of his mouth.
“He seems to have forgotten what he signed off on in August, 2015,” Yohnka said.
“He signed the agreement that put in place these new curbs around street stops. I find it a little hard to keep up with where he is.”