Chicago less safe because of ACLU settlement imposed on police department

By Jerome R. Corsi, Ph.D.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) settlement with the Chicago Police Department is a case study in how leftist political activists can use allegations that police procedures discriminate against minorities to put handcuffs on the effective police work that is required to keep minority communities safe.

To understand how the case developed, we must go back to March 2015, when the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois issued a report entitled “Stop and Frisk in Chicago.”[1]

The report began by referencing “high profile killings,” including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio; and Eric Garner in New York.  While none of these three incidents resulted in any criminal indictments against the police, Cleveland and New York City both agreed to multi-million-dollar settlements with the families of the deceased.

At issue in each of these cases was the Supreme Court decision in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), which established that police officers can stop an individual if the officer has reasonable suspicion the person has been, or is about to be engaged in criminal activity.

“In black and Latino communities, these everyday interactions are often a ‘stop-and-frisk,” the report noted in the second paragraph. “Once you are stopped, if an officer has reasonable suspicion that you are dangerous and have a weapon, the officer can frisk you, including ordering you to put your hands on a wall or car, and running his or her hands over your body. This experience is often invasive, humiliating and disturbing.”

From there, the ACLU report argued that Chicago city had “failed to supervise and monitor law enforcement in minority communities for decades, resulting in a failure to ensure that officers’ use of stop-and-frisk is lawful.” 

The remainder of the ACLU report was devoted to arguing the Chicago P.D. had intentionally implemented an authorized police procedure of illegal stop-and-frisk activities in minority communities in a manner resulting in daily “systematic abuse” of minority rights.

As evidence, the report argued the Chicago P.D. disproportionately utilized stop-and-frisk activities in the African-American community, such that black Chicagoans were subjected to 72 percent of all stops, yet constitute just 32 percent of the city’s population. Minorities in mostly white police districts are also stopped disproportionately to the number of minority individuals living in those districts.

“In the face of a systemic abuse of this law enforcement practice, Chicago refuses to keep adequate data about its officers’ stops,” the report stressed. “Officers do not identify stops that result in an arrest or ordinance violation, and they do not keep any data on when they frisk someone. This failure to record data makes it impossible for police supervisors, or the public, to identify bad practices and make policy changes to address them.”

Immediately, the radical left seized on the ACLU report as evidence the Chicago P.D. was a racist organization using stop-and-frisk tactics as everyday operating procedure to punish black residents of the city.

“In my judgment, the purpose of this overreach of the stop-and-frisk policy is threefold,” wrote Rev. Jesse L. Jackson of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition when the ACLU report was published.  “One – to engage in racial control; two – to broadly create fear in the African-American community through police intimidation; and three – to attempt to perpetuate racial subordination.”[2]

Rather than attribute increased stop-and-frisk police activity to increased criminal activity in Chicago’s minority communities, Rev. Jackson chose to portray Chicago’s minorities as victims of white racism, explaining police stop-and-frisk activities as a reflection of the determination of racist white Chicagoans to utilize force to perpetuate a pattern of systematic economic discrimination against Chicago’s minority citizens.

“When the black community is denied adequate jobs and wages to support families; denied good public schools, a high quality education and preparation for work: denied affordable and high quality health care; denied adequate and affordable housing; denied a lack of adequate recreational facilities and programs; and more in contrast to other communities – the black community will be unstable and dysfunctional,” Jackson continued. “This results in the black community having a disproportionate amount of violence, crime and criminality.”

Seen from this perspective, Jackson argued the Chicago P.D. employed stop-and-frisk activities disproportionately against minority residents “to create fear in the broader African American community through police intimidation,” and “to send a message of domination and to instill fear throughout the black community.” 

Jackson went so far as to characterize the Chicago P.D. use of stop-and-frisk in the black community as an extension of the lynching of blacks “and their aftermath dragging us through the street, burning and dismemberment of our bodies” as a social control mechanism he characterized as common to the post-Civil War era.

On April 22, 2015, Gregory Davis, an African-American resident of Chicago, along with five others, filed a class-action suit in U.S. District Court charging Chicago Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy and 14 unnamed officers with a violation of their civil rights resulting from police stop-and-frisks where no crimes had been subsequently charged.

According to Davis, the Chicago police stopped him in July 2014 while he waited in his vehicle for a family member to come out of a drug store.[3] Officers asked him why he was sitting there, demanding to see his driver’s license and insurance information. 

The lawsuit alleged Davis was stopped three months later as he drove through an alley in his neighborhood. Again, the officers took Davis’ license and registration, making him wait some 20 minutes while the officers conducted a background search. In neither instance was Davis issued any citation or charged with any crime.

On August 7, 2015, the ACLU and the Chicago P.D. announced an accord in which the police agreed to collect additional data about all investigatory stops in the city of Chicago.[4]

In making the announcement, the ACLU listed the data to be collected as follows:


·        The name and badge number of the officer

·        The race/ethnicity of the person stopped

·        The gender of the person stopped

·        All the reasons for the stop

·        The location

·        The date and time of the stop

·        Whether a pat-down resulted from the stop (along with the reason for the pat-down)

·        whether contraband was discovered

·        what happened because of the stop (including an arrest, warning, or no action at all

The agreement called for additional training of the officers, with an emphasis on stressing that investigatory stops in Chicago were to be justified only when there is reasonable cause of criminal activity, and that protective pat-downs were to be performed only when legally justified. 

All data collected by the Chicago P.D. was to be shared with the ACLU, and retired U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys, an African-American, was appointed to oversee the procedures, examine the data, and determine if enhanced supervision or discipline of officers was required for stops that violate Chicago PD procedures.

The ACLU agreement with the Chicago P.D. was written to cover all 12,000 officers and supervisors on the force.[5]

By February 2016, Chicago news media were reporting that the number of stop-and-frisks conducted by the Chicago police had gone down by 80 percent from November 2015 to January 2016, due largely to what was known in police circles as the “ACLU effect.”[6]

The agreement with the ACLU had required the Chicago P.D. to abandon a small “Contact Card” that Chicago police had traditionally used to report who was stopped and why, with a new state law incorporating the agreement requiring Chicago police to fill out a two-page “Investigative Stop Report” in all stop-and-frisk incidents after January 1, 2016. 

The additional reporting requirements plus the possibility that any given stop-and-frisk incident could be career-ending caused Mayor Rahm Emanuel to declare the Chicago P.D. had gone “fetal,” with police officers deciding it was better not to conduct a stop-and-frisk, even if that decision left the community less safe.[7]

Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune began publishing a weekly update on the alarming increase in Chicago shooting victims, documenting 865 shooting victims from January 1, 2017 through April 14, 2017, a pace only slightly off the 4,368 shooting victims in Chicago the newspaper had documented for 2016.[8] 

Homicides in Chicago soared in January 2016 by 67 percent over the previous January, with each month that followed in 2016 evidencing more homicides than in the same month in 2015.  By the end of 2016, Chicago had recorded 58 percent more homicides than in the previous year.[9]   

On March 15, 2017, former U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon wrote a scathing five-page “open letter” in deference to the request made five days earlier by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, asking all 46 U.S. attorneys appointed by President Obama to resign.[10] Fardon cited the ACLU agreement as one of the main reasons violent crime in Chicago has been on the increase.

“And then on January 1, 2016, a contract began between CPD and the ACLU requiring that officers complete lengthy contact cards for every street encounter,” he wrote.[11] “That ACLU deal grew out of a lawsuit about stop-and-frisk, but the contract that settled the lawsuit swung the pendulum hard in the other direction by telling cops if you (officer) go talk to those kids on the corner, you’re going to have to take 40 minutes to fill out a form, and you’re going to have to give them a receipt with your badge number on it.”

He continued: “So by January 2016, the city was on fire. We had no police superintendent. Cops were under scrutiny. Cops had to worry about the ACLU deal. And many of them just no longer wanted to bear the risk of stopping suspects. Many became scared and demoralized. And that demoralization was compounded by the City panel’s sweeping tone and language around racism and lack of respect for the sanctity of human life.”

Fardon left no doubt he considered the ACLU agreement a mistake.

“So cops stopped making stops,” he wrote in conclusion. “And kids started shooting more – because they could, and because the rule of law, law enforcement, had been delegitimized. And that created an atmosphere of chaos.”

 In the 2016 presidential campaign, even Donald Trump got involved.

In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Trump was asked by an audience member what he would do to address “violence in the black community” and “black-on-black violence.”[12]  Trump highlighted a city that’s “out of control,” suggesting stop-and-frisk was a necessity for the city to emerge from the cycle of violence into which Chicago had descended.

“I think Chicago needs stop-and-frisk,” Trump said.  “Now, people can criticize me for that or people can say whatever they want, but when they asked me about Chicago, and I think stop-and-frisk, with good strong, you know, good, strong law and order.  But you have to do something. It can’t continue the way it’s going.”[13]

“National Police Research Platform,” a Pew Research Center study reported in January 2017, found that of the nearly 8,000 police surveyed nationwide, 72 percent responded that officers in their departments are now less willing to stop and question suspicious persons.[14]

Overall, more than 86 percent responded that police work today is harder as traditional police policies have come under sharp attack from the political left after a series of deaths of black Americans resulting from encounters with police.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a speech to law enforcement delivered in Richmond, Virginia, on March 15, 2017, gave law enforcement officers some basis for hope.[15]

Sessions lamented the reduction in proactive policing, as seen in the dramatic decline of stop-and-frisk incidents in Chicago since the 2015 agreement with the ACLU.  He commented that this type of reduction in proactive police work is inevitable when police officers are “reluctant to get out of their squad cars and do the proactive, up-close police work that builds trust and prevents violent crime.”

Sessions concluded, “We should encourage the proactive policing that keeps our neighborhoods safe.  The Department of Justice will do just that.”

Yet, before we become too hopeful the Trump administration may reverse the Obama administration’s leftist orientation to weight minority rights ahead of the duty police have to protect society, we should remember the case Darnell Smith case Smith et al. v. City of Chicago et al. that is still proceeding in federal court before the Illinois Northern District Court.[16]

While predicting the outcome of legal cases is risky at best, after eight years of Obama administration judicial appointments to the federal bench, we should not be surprised if the federal district court hearing the case elevates the ACLU agreement with the Chicago P.D. to the level of a constitutionally mandated procedure to protect minority civil rights.


[1] ACLU of Illinois, “Stop-and-frisk in Chicago,” March 2015,

[2] Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, “Stop-and-frisk is Among the New Tactics of Racial Control, Racial Intimidation and Racial Subordination,” press release, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, published by the States News Service, Chicago, Illinois, April 25, 2015.

[3] Associated Press, “Lawsuit filed against Chicago police over stop-and-frisk,” April 22, 2015.

[4] ACLU, “Landmark agreement reached on investigatory stops in Chicago,” Aug. 7, 2015,

[5] Jeremy Gorner, “ACLU, Chicago police agree to changes on controversial street stops,” Chicago Tribune, Aug. 7, 2015,

[6] Chuck Goudie, “CPD ‘Stop-and-frisks’ Down 80 Percent in 2016,” ABC Eyewitness News, Channel 7, Chicago, Illinois, Feb. 1, 2016,

[7] Editorial Board, “What’s behind Chicago’s surge in violence” Chicago Tribune, Jan. 17, 2017,

[8] “Crime in Chicagoland: Chicago Shooting Victims,” Chicago Tribune, last updated April 14, 2017,

[9] Editorial Board, “What’s behind Chicago’s surge in violence” Chicago Tribune, op.cit.

[10] Ryan Kilpatrick, “Read the Searing Full Text of the Open Letter Written by a U.S. Attorney Dismissed by Trump,” Time Magazine, March 15, 2017,

[11] “Open Letter from Zachary Fardon, March13, 2017, ABC Eyewitness News, Channel 7, Chicago, Illinois, March 13, 2017,

[12] Louis Nelson, “Trump calls for nationwide ‘stop-and-frisk’ policy,” Politico, Sept. 9, 2016,

[13] Nolan D. McCaskill, “Trump clarifies stop-and-frisk: I only meant Chicago,” Politico, Sept. 22, 2016,

[14] Rich Morin, Kim Parker, Renee Stepler, and Andrew Mercer, “Behind the Badge,” Pew Research Center, Jan. 11, 2017,

[15] Scott Erickson, president of Americans in Support of Law Enforcement, “Jeff Sessions Speech to Law Enforcement Signals Tough Approach to Violent Crime,” Commentary, The Daily Signal, March 15, 2017,

[16] Smith et al v. City of Chicago et al, Case # 1:15-cv-03467, Judge Amy J. St Eve, Illinois Northern District Court, filed April 20, 2015, case still in progress as of April 15, 2017,