Stop and frisk numbers drop, racial profiling remains high

By Editorial Board

A March 24 study of the Chicago Police Department’s stop-and-frisk procedures showed a significant decrease in the number of stops since a 2015 American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois lawsuit, according to a Washington Post article from the same day.

Former U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys, who authored the report, found that despite the dramatic drop in numbers—1.3 million in 2014 and 2015 to just over 54,000 in the first six months of 2016—officers were still targeting racial minorities.

In Keys’ 216-page report, he noted that African-American and Hispanic people were more likely than white people to be subjected to what he deemed “bad stops”—when officers fail to articulate probable cause for stopping someone—and were more likely to be patted down.

Despite Keys’ conclusion that the numbers represented an “excellent start by the CPD to documenting investigatory stops,” the study still brings up questions of whether officers are targeting certain neighborhoods, considering disproportionate statistics. 

Only a third of the population in Chicago is black, but more than 70 percent of those stopped are black. Stop-and-frisk demonstrates racial profiling at its worst and while CPD may be on a road to recovery, it needs to reevaluate what it is teaching not only veteran officers but also prospective ones. Besides recruiting minority officers, CPD needs to recognize that an officer’s training may have more of an effect than their race.

On April 13, 2016, a panel commissioned  by Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a report that responded to data showing that 74 percent of people killed or injured by Chicago police officers over the last eight years were black. The panel said the data “gives validity to the widely held belief the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color.”

CPD needs to realize that the reason high crime statistics exist among minorities is likely due in part to the department’s habitual profiling of minorities. Crime statistics may not accurately reflect who is committing the crimes, but instead who is being targeted and arrested the most. 

CPD cannot look at racial statistics to determine the type of people they should be stopping. There is no equitable future if the CPD doesn’t get rid of the “black people commit the most crimes” mantra.

According to a March 24 Chicago Tribune article, some police officers said recent violence can be blamed on officers trying to avoid controversial incidents that could damage their careers and pointed to declining stop-and-frisks as a factor. Other critics blamed the two-page forms required for officers to fill out for each stop for the decline in stops, which they saw as a factor in 2016’s sharp rise in murders.

Officers are understandably upset that the new forms take longer to fill out than the previous “contact cards.” While the cumbersome procedure associated with these forms may be the reason for the drop in stops, an explanation has not been offered for the racial profiling. Officers still need to do their job, truthfully and without prejudice.