It was a night like any other.
At least, that’s what Rashawn Lindsey thought as he walked home with his friend in Chicago after an evening out at his cousin’s in April 2015.
Lindsey, 18 at the time, didn’t see the flashing blue and red lights approaching behind them.
Not until his friend shouted his name. The first thing Lindsey saw when he turned around was a police officer pointing a Taser in his direction.
“Hands up!” The officer shouted. Lindsey complied and was handcuffed next to his friend.
The officer began going through their pockets and demanded to know if either had marijuana on them. They didn’t.
“I felt like a criminal,” Lindsey, now 24, said. “They had no reason to stop us. We were just walking. The problem was it was at night and we got our skin.”
Attorneys at Romanucci & Blandin, LLC and Hart McLaughlin & Eldridge, LLC allege Lindsey’s “stop and frisk” was a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.
Now, Lindsey is one of 2 million people involved in a class-action lawsuit certified by Judge Andrea Wood on Aug. 31.
According to the lawsuit, the Chicago Police Department’s stop and frisk practice targeted young and middle-aged minorities without the required “reasonable suspicion” that a crime has been or is about to happen.
The lawsuit alleges that in 2014, more than 715,000 stops were conducted. Seventy-one percent of those stops happened to Black residents and 17% to Hispanic residents, according to the lawsuit. But there were no recoveries of illicit contraband, according to attorney Antonio Romanucci.
“The significance of stop and frisk is a slow drip of community erosion, which leads to the horrific mistrust between citizens and police, especially those of color,” said Romanucci.
With the class action certified, Romanucci said there is a possibility of a trial, although they would prefer an agreement of change be manufactured through talks with the mayor and CPD.
“The Chicago Police Department creates great policies and then doesn’t train on them,” Romanucci said. “We have this culture of creating policies but then letting police officers act with impunity, and that’s why we get in trouble.”
Attorney Steven Hart said the judge has asked the city if it would be interested in seeking a compromise resolution.
For Lindsey, the damage is done. Not only does he have a record that falsely lists him as a Gangster Disciple — the reason behind the 2015 stop — but he no longer trusts police officers.
“I notice any car. I can tell if they’re police,” Lindsey said. “They could be sitting in a speed trap or just rolling by and the lights come on. I’m looking back to see what’s going on, because I’m not trying to get stopped again.”
Cheyanne M. Daniels is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South and West sides.