Judge denies emergency motion compelling Chicago police give arrestees phone call, lawyer within hour

However, the judge said examples of police not providing a private phone call for several hours, if at all, “tragic” and “disheartening.”

SHARE Judge denies emergency motion compelling Chicago police give arrestees phone call, lawyer within hour
A judge’s gavel

The request for the emergency injunction was brought by attorneys representing the Cook County public defender’s office and a collection of activist groups in a lawsuit filed in June that accuses police of systematically violating of state law by routinely denying arrestees phone calls and access to defense lawyers.

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A Cook County judge Friday declined to issue an emergency order compelling Chicago police to provide arrestees access to a phone and a lawyer within an hour of being taken to a police station.

The request for the emergency injunction was brought by attorneys representing the Cook County public defender’s office and a collection of activist groups in a lawsuit filed in June that accuses police of systematically violating state law by routinely denying arrestees phone calls and access to defense attorneys.

“It is not my role to be an activist judge by writing legislation, or rewriting legislation,” Chancery Division Judge Neil Cohen said of approving an emergency order that would set a timeframe for when police should provide phone calls.

State law says that arrestees have the right to make a “reasonable” number of phone calls to family and an attorney of their choice within a “reasonable” amount of time.

Petitioners say that for more than two decades, the state has defined a “reasonable” timeframe as within an hour of being brought to a police station, and additionally asked the judge to make police officers document cases when they are unable to meet that window.

Attorneys for the city maintain police are granted discretion under state law for how quickly an arrestee is given a phone call.

Cohen said the ambiguity would be explored in-depth as the case continues, but he did not want to make a decision before evidentiary hearings and before the state responds to the suit.

However, the judge called examples put forth by the public defender’s office of police not providing a private phone call for several hours, if at all, “tragic” and “disheartening.”

“I expect everybody, including the Chicago Police Department — more importantly the Chicago Police Department, who are supposed to serve and protect — to follow the law,” Cohen said.

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