The Chicago Police Department has “come a long way” to alleviate the concerns of civil rights activists about officers stopping minorities for questioning, a retired federal magistrate judge said in a report released Wednesday.
Arlander Keys is studying cops’ stops under an agreement that took effect on Jan. 1, 2016 between the department and the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU had criticized the police for disproportionately stopping minorities and failing to list lawful reasons for stops on the “contact cards” they were supposed to fill out.
In his latest report, Keys said he was unable to determine — or rule out — that the department’s stop-and-frisk policies and practices have an unlawful, disproportionate impact on racial and ethnic minorities.
But he said he was encouraged that in a sample of the 51,000 stops he examined from July to December 2016, cops “conducted an overwhelmingly large number of legitimate, lawful and justified stops.”
Officers did fewer “protective pat downs” of people they believed might be carrying weapons, Keys said. And a bigger percentage of those pat downs yielded weapons than during the first six months of 2016, which he previously studied. White people were the smallest group subjected to those pat downs, but were the most likely to have weapons on them.
Keys said the racial breakdown of the 51,000 stops in late 2016 painted a “less rosy picture.” About 70 percent of those stopped were black, 19 percent were Hispanic and 1.5 percent were white, he said.
Keys’ report mentioned the fatal shooting of Cmdr. Paul Bauer, who was gunned down last month while trying to arrest a man being chased by officers for questioning about drug activities in the downtown area. Bauer “highlights the extraordinary bravery and courage of all police officers,” Keys wrote.
“This incident highlights the fragile balance that the Fourth Amendment seeks to strike and the often unclear contours of the decisions that police officers must make every day about whether to stop a civilian based on reasonable suspicion that a crime has, is, or is about to be committed, and – if necessary – to frisk (e.g., pat down and/or search) that suspect.”
The ACLU and city released statements saying they’re committed to working with Keys. “The latest report shows what we always knew – that this is going to be a long-term process,” said Karen Sheley of the ACLU of Illinois.