Dissenter FeaturedLatest NewsThe Dissenter

‘The ACLU Effect’: Chicago Cops Blame Changes To Stop And Frisk Policies For Spike In Violence

Numerous Chicago police blame the American Civil Liberties Union for the escalation in gun violence, even though there is no evidence the change to stop and frisk policies is responsible for more gang members shooting each other.

Calling it the “ACLU effect,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported street cops claim the “Chicago Police Department’s pact with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois to monitor police stops in greater detail is prompting officers to stop policing.” This has allegedly made it possible for criminals to murder and fueled a spike in violence.

The ACLU and the city of Chicago reached a settlement on stop and frisks in August of last year. It increased the amount of data an officer is required to record when making a stop, making the new form that must be filled out two pages instead of one.

Police are supposedly afraid they will get “in trouble for stops later deemed to be illegal,” as a judge will review the stops and issue a report in June. The officers claim the “new cards take too much time to complete.” (The forms are known as contact cards.)

Breaking this down, Chicago cops would have Chicagoans believe the paperwork is too time-consuming for them so they refuse to stop individuals they may have reason to believe are responsible for murders, which took place in January. On top of that, these same cops will not stop these dangerous people because they are afraid the information they put down will lead a judge to scold them for abusing their authority.

What makes this even more ludicrous is one sergeant, who works on the south side, contends officers are “hamstrung by the intense scrutiny over police practices” since video of Officer Jason Van Dyke killing Laquan McDonald was released last November.

It is all a bunch of hysteria intended to reverse a small level of accountability imposed upon officers within the past year.

Chicago is not a city, where officers have any reason to fear prosecutions for abusing their authority and conducting illegal stops. Officers should face repercussions for such misconduct, however, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez runs an office that very rarely prosecutes officers who commit crimes. The Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) in Chicago functions more as a body to exonerate officers than a body setup to independently pursue criminal complaints.

Prior analysis of stop and frisks in New York City indicated the tactic did not reduce shootings and help cops recover more guns. According to a 2014 report from the ACLU chapter of New York, “In more than 5 million stops, police recovered a gun less than 0.02 percent of the time. And as the NYPD ramped up the number of stops, shootings and murders in the city did not appear to correspondingly decline.”

New York police entered into a settlement with the city, and following the settlement, cops attempted to whip up similar hysteria. But there was no connection between spikes in crime and the reduction in stops.

“From 2011 to 2013, when the number of police stops dropped a precipitous 75 percent, the number of shootings and murders also dropped, by 29 percent. The city’s murder rate, meanwhile, fell to a historic low in 2013,” according to Huffington Post reporter Christopher Mathias.

The ACLU of Illinois showed in March 2015 police provided an “unlawful reason” or “failed to provide enough information to justify the stop” in half of the stops reviewed. Black Chicagoans were stopped at a disproportionate rate of 72% of the stops, even though they only make up 32% of the city’s population. This is what prompted the ACLU to pursue a settlement (though the organization did so without the full support of some key grassroots organizations in the community).

If one accepts the Chicago police’s excuse for why violence has escalated, they refuse to do work because there are more restrictions on who they can legally stop, and they object to this mild process to decrease racist policing of communities.

It also demonstrates that the Chicago police are engaged in a work stoppage similar to the one that occurred after Freddie Gray was killed by Baltimore police. The Intercept’s Juan Thompson reported on residents, who accused the police of “failing to do their jobs in the city’s roughest, most downtrodden neighborhoods.”

Many of Chicago’s “most downtrodden” live on the west and south sides, where violence has increased. The police are essentially making Chicagoans pay for protesting them in vast numbers over the past months. It also could be construed as their morally bankrupt way of showing solidarity with one of their own, Jason Van Dyke, who has been charged with the murder of McDonald. Certainly, they fear more of their fellow officers could face this kind of prosecution in the future if this climate, fueled by anti-police brutality actions, persists.

But local news organizations in Chicago should not peddle police propaganda, particularly when it allows police to inflict collective punishment on communities by sending a message that they will not protect those who challenge their conduct.

Plus, the interim police chief says the violence is “driven by gang conflicts and retaliatory violence.” Absent proof any of these murders were committed by individuals who believe police will no longer stop them because of the ACLU’s settlement, the refusal to do work should be viewed as a completely dangerous and contemptuous stunt to coerce city politicians into abandoning the moderate increase in scrutiny applied since video of McDonald was released.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."