Oral Testimony before Chief Judge Pallmeyer at the Public Hearing on the Chicago Police Department Consent Decree

On June 2, 2023, federal court Judge Pallmeyer held a public hearing regarding the consent decree. Speakers from around Chicago provided powerful testimony regarding negative encounters they’ve had with CPD officers and frustration with the pace of progress. Amy Thompson provided testimony on behalf of Impact for Equity, to impress upon the court that the consent decree demands “urgency regarding CPD’s compliance with this agreement and reject any continued stagnation.”

Good morning, Chief Judge Pallmeyer. Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.

My name is Amy Thompson. I’m a Staff Counsel at Impact for Equity (formerly known as BPI), a law and policy center in Chicago. Our policing work focuses on enacting systemic changes to promote community safety, to strengthen accountability and transparency, and to reimagine the role that police should play in society.

The consent decree is one of the tools used to fuel reforms within the Chicago Police Department. Unfortunately, four years into implementation, there are significant doubts about CPD’s commitment to making serious change given the lack of meaningful progress.

A clear example of CPD’s failure to make meaningful progress can be seen with respect to the impartial policing section. These provisions seek to transform CPD’s practices that disproportionately harm our City’s Black and Latine residents. This section is premised on the idea that treating all Chicagoans fairly and with care and respect is a fundamental obligation for CPD. Without impartial policing, promoting community engagement and fostering public confidence and trust is simply not possible.

Since the consent decree took effect, the Independent Monitor’s reports, community surveys, and external community accounts and data analysis all show that CPD’s strategies continue to sow harm and mistrust among Black and Latine Chicagoans.

One example of CPD actions that are illustrative of this larger issue is CPD’s use of traffic stops. This Spring, Impact for Equity and the Free2Move Coalition released reports showing that since 2015, CPD has made hundreds of thousands of unnecessary traffic stops that targeted and harmed Black and Latine motorists and did not keep Chicago’s roads or communities safe. In 2022, officers made over 511,000 traffic stops. Black and Latine Chicagoans are experiencing the brunt of this strategy. In 2022, Black people made up 57% of all traffic stops despite being only 29% of Chicago’s population. That year, 16% of all traffic stops took place in just two of CPD’s 22 police districts – District 10 and District 11. These districts are on Chicago’s West side and are over 96% Black and Latine. Citywide in 2022, Black and Latine people were also the targets of nearly 97% of the uses of force during traffic stops.

But all these stops aren’t leading to any appreciable public safety benefits. It’s clear that CPD allocates countless resources to widespread traffic stops as a crime-fighting strategy – using the justification of minor traffic infractions to fish for criminal activity. Internal communications from CPD confirm that leadership has pushed officers to make excessive traffic stops in attempts to reduce shootings and violent crime. But the data shows this approach doesn’t work. In 2021 and 2022, less than one percent of stops resulted in recovery of illegal materials, like alcohol, drugs or guns. This data makes clear that CPD’s use of traffic stops is not only ineffective at addressing public safety but also harmful to Chicago’s Black and Latine communities.

Earlier this week, the Independent Monitor released results from its second Community Survey which echoes this data. Across the board, the results showed that Black and Latine residents in Chicago had less trust, less confidence, and greater concern for their safety with CPD than white neighbors.

  • Black respondents were four times more likely than white respondents to have been stopped in a vehicle or while walking or standing on the street over the year prior.
  • Young Black men reported being stopped, interrogated, and arrested over four times the rate of the average Chicagoan.
  • Over half of Black respondents and 36% of Latine respondents felt they had been personally stopped by CPD because of their racial or ethnic background.
  • Over half of young black men respondents rated CPD poorly on providing a valid reason for stopping them and on expressing concern about their feelings during the encounter.
  • The majority of respondents of all races said the CPD are doing a “poor” or “very poor” job at treating members of the Black community fairly.

All evidence points to an inexcusable failure to make meaningful progress toward the impartial policing obligations under this consent decree that is subjecting our city’s Black and Latine communities to harmful over policing. If CPD was meaningfully pursuing these objectives, we would not see this high level of traffic stops in Black and Latine communities with disproportionate numbers of searches, uses of force, and arrests.

This lack of progress is causing communities to lose whatever confidence they had remaining in CPD’s ability to make positive change. Chicagoans have fought and waited long enough for results. As you preside over this case, please sustain an urgency regarding CPD’s compliance with this agreement and reject any continued stagnation. Our city’s residents deserve no less.

Thank you.

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