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Most police stops OK, but minorities face more patdowns — report

Retired U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys. | Sun-Times file photo

Most of the stops that police officers made in Chicago during the first half of 2016 appeared to be by the book, according to a long-awaited report released Friday by a retired federal magistrate judge.

Arlander Keys found what he termed a “good stop rate” of about 90 percent of the stops that he and his researchers reviewed. “This good stop rate, in isolation, certainly represents an excellent start by the CPD to documenting investigatory stops,” Keys wrote.

But Keys noted that blacks and Hispanics are more likely than whites to be subjected to “bad stops,” in which officers failed to articulate a legal reason for stopping someone. Minorities also are more likely to be patted down by officers, the retired federal judge found.

Keys’ 400-plus-page report was the result of an agreement between the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and former police Supt. Garry McCarthy reached in August 2015 after the ACLU blasted the Chicago Police Department for disproportionately stopping minorities and failing to list lawful reasons for stops on the “contact cards” they’re supposed to fill out.

Under the agreement, the police agreed to broaden the information officers put on contact cards — such as whether someone was frisked, searched or arrested.

Keys’ periodic analysis was part of the ACLU deal. Friday was his first report.

A 2015 state law signed a week later required many of the same changes to the contact cards.

Some have blamed the two-page forms for the steep downturn in police stops in 2016 and thus as a factor in the sharp rise in murders last year in Chicago.

Officers were peeved the cards took longer to fill out. Some said they worried they would get in trouble for failing to give a proper reason for making a stop.

Police critics, meanwhile, said the rise in gun violence was the result of a growing distrust of officers following several killings of civilians by officers in Chicago and elsewhere.

Keys acknowledged both of those theories in his report. He said he’d spoken with cops who were fearful of the ACLU agreement and with students who view the police as an occupying force.

“It is indeed a sad day when children believe they can be forced to submit to governmental control when they have done nothing wrong,” Keys wrote.

He said it’s not a “waste of law enforcement resources in time, energy and attention” to fill out the extra information now required for the contact cards. That takes about 10 to 15 minutes to do, according to officers he interviewed.

Ensuring that civil rights are protected is just as important as the public interest that’s served by cops, Keys said.

From Jan. 1, 2014 to Dec. 31, 2015 — before the ACLU agreement — police officers in Chicago made about 1.32 million stops in which no enforcement action was taken, Keys found. Officers identified about 71 percent of those people who were stopped as black, 17 percent as Hispanic and 9 percent as white, he said.

There were only about 54,000 “investigatory stops” in the first six months of 2016, according to Keys’ findings. He reviewed a sample of 3,310 such stops and found that about six to 10 percent of them were bad stops.

About 1,000 of those stops resulted in frisking someone. Slightly more than 500 involved a search. In 44 of those searches, the officer’s narrative on the contact card was insufficient to explain whether the officer had a legal reason to make a stop, Keys found.

Across the city, whites were patted down during 23 percent of stops, compared with 36 percent of Hispanics and 38 percent of blacks.

But the rates of searches were similar: 17 percent of whites and Hispanics who were stopped and 18 percent of blacks.

Keys noted that citywide totals for all types of arrests fell about 25 percent in the first six months of 2016 from the same period of 2015, but arrests for violent offenses rose about 4 percent.

The ACLU called Keys’ report “a first step . . . to ensure that all stops on Chicago streets meet constitutional and legal standards.”

“While the report concludes that the agreement’s goal has not yet been fully achieved, the report lauds the parties for working together in good faith and the city and CPD for taking many positive steps toward implementing the agreement’s terms,” said Ed Yohnka, an ACLU spokesman.

Contributing: Fran Spielman