When police departments face criticism, they tend to dig in their heels, deny any wrongdoing, and accuse those who dare to point out their flaws of being crime-humping gang-lovers. That’s all very charming, but it’s nice to see Chicago police experimenting with a different approach.
Today, the Chicago PD announced, entirely of its own volition, that it would employ some modest reforms to its stop-and-frisk program. In March, the American Civil Liberties Union published a report which found that, much like in New York, Chicago cops’ use of the practice was wildly racially biased: over a four-month period last year, there were roughly 250,000 stops that did not lead to an arrest. Seventy-five percent of those stopped were black, despite black people comprising just a third of the city’s population.
Under the new reforms, a former U.S. Magistrate judge named Arlander Keys will independently evaluate the department’s use of stop-and-frisk, publishing twice-yearly reports “to insure that stops on Chicago streets meet constitutional and legal standards,” according to a news release. It’s far from a full-scale dismantling, but it’s notable because the department did not even need to be taken to court to concede that an independent review might be a good thing. The program was announced in partnership with the ACLU.
Contrast that to what happened in New York when stop-and-frisk was challenged: the city went to federal court to defend it, and when the court decided that the city’s stops were unconstitutional, and ordered a federal monitor whose role is not dissimilar to that of Mr. Keys, the city—under Mike Bloomberg—filed an appeal. Stop-and-frisk reform ultimately came to NYC, but only after liberal-minded de Blasio was elected and dropped that appeal.
Chicago police are not perfect. Not even close. Witness the death of Rekia Boyd by the gun of Detective Dante Servin for all the evidence you need of that. But more police departments would do well to acknowledge that they are staffed not by steely and infallible demigods, but biased and emotional and unreliable people, just like everyone else.