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Chicago police, ACLU reach agreement on 'stop and frisk' practice

An independent evaluator will now monitor Chicago police stops. An ACLU report earlier this year found that Chicagoans were stopped four times as often as New Yorkers were at the height of their stop-and-frisk program.

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    Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy (l.) speaks at a news conference in Chicago, in 2013. The Chicago Police Department will allow independent evaluations of its stop-and-frisk procedures that critics have said targeted blacks under an agreement announced Friday with the American Civil Liberties Union.
    M. Spencer Green/AP
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An “unprecedented” agreement between the Chicago Police Department and the American Civil Liberties Union will allow independent evaluations of the department’s controversial "stop and frisk" program.

The new agreement will go into effect immediately, the two groups announced Friday. In March, the ACLU came out with a report finding that racial minorities were disproportionately targeted by Chicago officers and that, in total, Chicagoans were stopped four times as often as New Yorkers were at the height of their stop-and-frisk program.

The city and the CPD will now collect additional data about investigatory stops – including those that don’t lead to an arrest. The data will include officers’ names and badge numbers; the race, ethnicity, and gender of the person stopped; and the reason for the stop, along with its location, date, and time. The information will be given to the ACLU and Arlander Keys, a former US magistrate judge.

Mr. Keys will provide public reports twice a year on CPD's stops and pat-downs, looking at whether the department is meeting its legal requirements.

One New York criminal justice expert warns that it is unlikely the new agreement will reduce the racial disparity that exists in Chicago's stops.

“If police departments want to be transparent, these are the things they have to do – they have to provide more stats,” says Joseph Giacalone, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan and a former detective in the New York Police Department.

“It’s a good thing,” he adds. “But then it’s also going to raise questions.”

Chicago, one of America’s most violent cities in recent years, has been struggling recently with a spike in violent crime. The city has seen more than 1,600 shootings through Aug. 6 this year, according to the Chicago Tribune, and the city’s 252 homicides so far this year is its highest number through July 26 since 2012, according to CPD data. In all that year, more than 500 people were killed in the city.

The crime is in these inner-city neighborhoods,” Professor Giacalone says.

When you are going into a neighborhood that has a high crime rate and a high violence rate,” he adds, “you’re going to ensnare honest, everyday working people.”

In stop-and-frisk programs, police question individuals and conduct pat-downs when they have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Opponents of the practice raise constitutional concerns, saying minorities are unfairly targeted.

According to the ACLU's March report, black Chicagoans, who represent 32 percent of the city’s population, made up 72 percent of all stops.

The agreement in Chicago calls for more officer training to make sure stops are conducted only when there is reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct, and that pat-downs are performed only when there is reasonable suspicion that the person stopped is armed and dangerous.

“As the men and women of the Chicago Police Department work to make our city safer and identify the small subset of individuals who torment our neighborhoods with violence, it is imperative that we use every tool and resource in a way that is not only lawful but respectful of the residents we serve,” said Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy in a statement. “This unprecedented agreement with the ACLU is a demonstration of CPD’s commitment to fairness, respect, transparency, and underscores our willingness to work side by side with everyone as we work toward our shared goal of keeping our neighborhoods safe.”

The agreement holds at bay what could have been a long, bitter legal battle between the two groups over implementing policy changes recommended in the ACLU's report, the groups say.

“This agreement incorporates the bulk of those recommendations, and reflects the types of agreements that have been reached in other communities only after a long, protracted period of investigation and litigation,” said Harvey Grossman, legal director for the ACLU, in a statement. “What we have done here is move past the litigation process and advanced directly to a collaborative process, to insure that stops on Chicago streets meet constitutional and legal standards.”

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