Black female aldermen finally get hearing on search warrant reform, but no vote held — or promised
Ald. Maria Hadden, chief sponsor of the “Anjanette Young ordinance,” took full advantage of the forum, even knowing no action would be taken Tuesday. Hadden said reforms imposed by the mayor and CPD superintendent aren’t enough.
Police reform advocates on Tuesday made their case for more sweeping search warrant reforms aimed at preventing a repeat of the botched raid on the wrong home that forced a crying and pleading social worker to stand naked and humiliated before an all-male team of Chicago Police Department officers.
With the City Council passing a landmark civilian police oversight ordinance, Public Safety Committee Chairman Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) finally got around to honoring his promise to hold a hearing on the ordinance championed by Black female aldermen and embraced by that social worker, Anjanette Young.
Ald. Maria Hadden (49th), chief sponsor of the “Anjanette Young ordinance,” took full advantage of the opportunity, even if it was only a “subject matter hearing” where no vote was taken.
Hadden argued the search warrant reforms Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPD Supt. David Brown have imposed by executive order are grossly inadequate.
She wanted people to know about “the frustration that our residents are feeling and, I can say, the frustration that I feel as a member of City Council, knowing that the special order is in effect and we’re still waiting on these changes,” Hadden said.
“What we’re asking for is for standards, for guidelines, for consistency. … You’re not seeing these raids happen in predominantly white neighborhoods. You’re seeing this disproportionate trauma” happen in Black and Hispanic communities, she added.
The ordinance would require search warrants to be executed 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., using the “least intrusive” tactics possible. Before executing a warrant, police would be required to wait 30 seconds and take “all available measures to avoid executing the warrant when children under 16 are present.” If children are present, police would be prohibited from pointing firearms at or handcuffing them.
Stella Park, researcher and law student at the University of Chicago’s Mandel Legal Aid Clinic, argued CPD’s decision to continue raiding homes in the middle of the night “undermines the entire purpose of prohibiting no-knock warrants.”
“It’s highly unlikely that a person who’s asleep would be able to wake up, get out of bed, get dressed and reach the front door before police break it down,” Park told aldermen.
“As the whole nation saw with the killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, police bursting in at night while people are asleep creates a very real risk that families believing an intruder [is trying to] break in will attempt to defend themselves. It’s a recipe for disaster putting families and police officers at serious risk.”
Park argued a 30-second wait before police break down the door would similarly “lessen the risk of confrontation.”
“Anjanette Young did not have 30 seconds to get dressed. She had gotten off of work, eaten dinner and was getting ready for the rest of her evening when police barged in, not allowing her to put her clothes on while they proceeded to search the wrong apartment. Allowing people to answer the doors in their clothes shows basic respect for their humanity,” Park said.
Brian McDermott, CPD’s chief of operations, saida 30-second wait “may seem pretty reasonable” but “could seem like an eternity” to a criminal or an officer.
“Picture you’re a police officer serving a warrant. You come up to a house and you can see, visibly, weapons inside of a room and the target of the search warrant is moving toward those weapons. Under no circumstance could I think it would be reasonable for officers to wait 30 seconds to move in that situation,” McDermott said.
“You’d be placing the lives of every officer on the scene in danger, including the lives of every person in that house.”
McDermott was also dead-set against what he called a “cookie-cutter policy” prohibiting pointing guns at children.
“I can’t tell you how many different situations may come up where an officer may have to point a weapon at a child. Let’s just say we’re serving a warrant for weapons and there’s a child sitting there who’s not listening to commands of an officer. He may be reaching for something. Let’s just say, God forbid, it be a handgun and we’re not allowed to point a weapon at that child,” McDermott said.
“Let’s say it’s not a handgun. It’s a cell phone. If the kid reached for that, maybe pointing a gun at ’em would’ve prevented them from reaching for the cell phone and prevented a tragedy that way.”
A former CPD sergeant, Taliaferro noted how dangerous and deadly it can be for police officers to execute a search warrant and raid the home of someone believed to be a criminal suspect.
“We’re looking at four officers in the month of May alone who were shot during the execution of a warrant. Some people want to go out in a blaze of glory. Giving them 30 seconds before entry gives them time to arm themselves,” he said.
Taliaferro wrapped up the two-hour portion of the hearing dedicated to search warrant reform with no guarantee of a future vote on the long-stalled ordinance.
To Hadden and her co-sponsors, he said only: “I appreciate the honor to bring this before our committee. Keep up the good work, ladies.”