Chicago’s top cop expects street stops to increase

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Interim Chicago Police Supt. John Escalante said Tuesday he hopes to counter a severe downturn in street stops by responding to cops’ complaints about the “burdensome” reports they’ve been filling out since the beginning of the year.

Escalante told the Chicago Sun-Times that officers will start using a new, streamlined form on March 1.

Escalante has met with officers for almost two weeks to hear their complaints about the “investigatory stop report” implemented on Jan. 1. He said he listened to their concerns at roll calls and at police headquarters.

The stop reports were required by a new state law and under an agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union last year.

“It was a little cumbersome and a little burdensome,” he said of the forms rolled out Jan. 1.

“It took a lot more time for the officers in the field,” Escalante said. “We saw a significant decrease in street contacts from prior years. . . . Easily, it doubled the amount of time to complete a stop report versus the old contact card.”

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Officers also say they’re leery of having their stops monitored by a retired federal judge under the agreement with the ACLU.

Street stops plummeted 79 percent in January compared with the same period of 2015. Meanwhile, murders and other crimes have skyrocketed this year in Chicago, which many cops have attributed to the slowdown in street stops.

The city and the ACLU agreed last week on the streamlined form.

Escalante said the stop reports were confusing. Officers were required to fill out three separate narratives, each of which was in a different section of the two-page report.

One narrative documented the reasonable suspicion for the stop; another required the officer to document whether the person was frisked and why; and the third asked whether the officer conducted a search beyond a “protective pat-down” and why.

“We took the three separate narratives and combined them into one” at the end of the report, Escalante said.

The revised report “falls more in line with every other report we require officers to do, whether it’s an arrest report or a missing persons report,” he said.

Escalante said he expects officers will start making more street stops as a result of the simpler form and “bring down some of that violence.”

The ACLU last year pressed for the expanded reporting on investigatory stops in Chicago after releasing a study showing minorities have been predominately targeted for stops here.

The ACLU found Chicago cops made more than a quarter million stops from May through August 2014, far more than in New York City at the peak of that police department’s stop-and-frisk practices.

The additional information on the investigatory stop reports — some of which was required by a new state law — is intended to help retired federal magistrate judge Arlander Keys evaluate whether officers are following the constitution when they make street stops.

Under the city’s agreement with the ACLU, Keys will review the reports and is expected to give evaluations every six months.

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