Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy in 2014 | Brian Jackson/ Sun-Times

Chicago Police and ACLU agree to major changes in stop-and-frisk policy

SHARE Chicago Police and ACLU agree to major changes in stop-and-frisk policy
SHARE Chicago Police and ACLU agree to major changes in stop-and-frisk policy

Responding to a scathing report by a civil-rights group, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy agreed Thursday to have a retired judge evaluate the department’s stop-and-frisk practices and require his officers to document whenever they conduct a pat-down.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois blasted the department in March for failing to record when officers frisk someone. The ACLU also questioned whether officers often stop people illegally. The stops have disproportionally targeted blacks, even in white neighborhoods, the ACLU found.

“We are very, very positive about this,” Harvey Grossman, legal director of the ACLU of Illinois, said of the deal.

“The objective is to ensure that there is compliance with the law, to reform policies that inhibit the department from complying with the law and build into the department an internal capacity to review and audit and monitor officers on the street with regard to ‘stop and frisk.’ ”

On Thursday, Mayor Emanuel appeared on “Chicago Tonight” on WTTW11 to discuss crime and the city and school system’s budget challenges, among other topics. You’ll find his comments about “Stop and Frisk” starting at 13:55.

Under the settlement, the police department will expand the information on “contact cards” that officers have been required to fill out when they stop someone on the street for questioning.

The cards list the person’s name, race, sex, address, phone number and other personal information. The officer checks a box for the type of contact: traffic-related, suspicious person, gang- or drug-related, crime victim or other. If the stop involves a vehicle, there are boxes to describe the make, model and license plate number.There are also three lines for the officer to provide a reason for the stop.

Now contact cards will also say whether the person was frisked, whether contraband like a gun was found, and whether there was an arrest, warning or citation. That will allow for better monitoring of stop-and-frisk practices and their impact on minorities, according to the ACLU.

McCarthy has agreed to have retired U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys conduct an independent evaluation of the department’s stop-and-frisk practices. Starting in June 2016, Keys will issue reports every six months about whether officers’ stops are constitutional.

The department will also provide additional training to officers in conducting stops and conduct its own internal audits of stop-and-frisk practices.

The changes will improve the department’s “legitimacy” and build the public’s confidence in how cops do their jobs, police officials said.

McCarthy said he thinks his officers make valid stops, but “if we can do it better, I am willing to try.” Still, his officers could “better articulate” on contact cards why they stop someone, he said.

Asked about the disproportionate number of blacks who are stopped, he said crime data show a strong correlation between the race of the people whom citizens describe as criminal suspects and the people whom the police are stopping.

McCarthy said the deal with the ACLU of Illinois is “groundbreaking.” He said the ACLU double-crossed him in Newark but was good to work with in New York, the places he’s worked previously.

In a report released in March, the ACLU found blacks were subjected to 72 percent of stops between May and August of 2014, although they are just 32 percent of the city’s population. “Chicago stops a shocking number of people,” the ACLU report said, pointing to more than 250,000 stops without arrests in the summer of 2014 alone.

The ACLU also reviewed 250 contact cards that officers filled out after stops and concluded that half didn’t list a lawful reason for the stops.

Other cities like New York have scaled back their stop-and-frisk practices, the ACLU noted.New York recorded 23 stops per 1,000 people in 2011 and just 2 stops per 1,000 in 2014, while Chicago had 93 stops per 1,000 in the summer of 2014.

Despite the deal, a lawsuit unrelated to the ACLU is still pending against the police department in federal court over its stop-and-frisk practices. The plaintiffs include dozens of blacks and one Hispanic who accuse officers of making stops without “reasonable suspicion” and of conducting unconstitutional searches and seizures.

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