ACLU on CPD Traffic Stop Lawsuit

On today’s episode, we feature an interview with Alexandra Block from the ACLU of Illinois about their lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department’s highly questionable traffic stop practices. The ACLU alleges that the CPD pulls people over exclusively to search them and their care for drugs and guns. According to their statistics, the CPD’s rate of finding guns, drugs, or cause to arrest the person they have pulled over is about 1%.

In 2020 the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office documented a significant switch in tactics by the CPD from pursuing gun offenders, those who have committed a violent crime with a weapon, to seek those who possess an unregistered gun. In the ACLU lawsuit, they allege that in 2016 the CPD made another switch in tactics from doing large numbers of stops of pedestrians in communities of color to making car stops in never before seen numbers in those same communities. The ACLU calls this just another version of stop and frisk. When combining these two critical data points, it is evident that CPD officials made a concerted effort to change how they fight gun violence and where and how they search for unregistered guns.

We also discussed with Alexandra that within a lawsuit filed by a former officer, internal emails were exposed showing high-ranking officers within the department pushing middle management to increase their traffic stop numbers. The emails reveal the pushing of unconstitutional CPD quotas designed to get officers on the street to increase significantly the number of pretextual stops they make. As the ACLU data shows, about 1 in 100 stops results in gun, drugs, or cause for arrest being found. Oddly enough, they also don’t result in a ticket being written. Significant proof that traffic safety is not a purpose for the stops.

Tracy has nearly two decades of experience researching and working within criminal justice systems. When Tracy began pursuing a career dedicate to system reform, he found that no single organization existed to promote evidence-based discussions among law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. Recognizing that citizens in Chicago deserved the right to demand transparency in their criminal justice system, Siska established the Chicago Justice Project. He received his Master of Arts degree in Criminal Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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Chicago Justice Podcast

This is our Chicago Justice Podcast that covers crime, violence, and justice issues in Chicago. We will feature deep dives in to justice system data, interview with researchers and justice system reform advocates, as well as evaluations of justice system practices.

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