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Racial Profiling by Police

 Posted on June 17, 2014 in Criminal Defense

Chicago criminal defense attorney, constitutional protection, Fourth Amendment, racial profiling, search and seizure, stop-and-frisk policy, racial bias, Christopher M. Cosley, illegal police behaviorCitizens are bound by constitutional protection, courtesy of the Fourth Amendment, in almost all encounters with police and law enforcement. The specific protections and relevant law of Fourth Amendment search and seizure issues are broad and potentially complex. One such issue addressed in the media recently involved an incident in the Chicago area of Illinois that included allegations of racial profiling by police.

The Incident

In March of this year, two workers were arrested while doing community outreach work on behalf of an organization. On that day, their work involved going door-to-door in a predominantly white southwest Chicago neighborhood in an effort to inform city residents about the then looming deadline to sign up for the Affordable Care Act. While doing so, they were stopped and frisked by Chicago Police Officers and later charged with misdemeanor offenses.

The area had been experiencing a high number of door-to-door scams and one of the residents called 911. When police arrived on scene in response, the men allegedly did not produce identification or other information linking them to their organization. Their charges were dismissed by a judge, but the two Latino men are alleging they were being racially profiled by police at the time of their detention and arrest. Now, some are calling for reform of the stop-and-frisk policies of the Chicago PD, arguing the need for increased police accountability by collecting more information about an officer’s use of the policy of stop-and-frisk.


One of the problems with the current system, regarding the stop-and-frisk policy that advocates of reform argue needs changing, involves contact cards or forms filled out by police officers when making stops on the street. They say that Chicago PD’s contact cards are vague and not easily searched. If this problem was corrected, more information about each incident of stop-and-frisk would be known. Further, the current lack of information, they say, means that communities do not know what is really happening.

Similar reform is occurring in the state of New York, and on the federal level to collect data about stops, searches, and arrests across the country. These efforts are meant to analyze the criminal justice system and reduce any associated effects of racial bias. The concern is that racial disparities contribute to growing tension on both the national and community level, which creates resentment toward law enforcement, and ultimately works against the goal of reducing crime.

In Chicago

The contact cards used by Chicago PD are arguably flawed in several ways: they are not specific enough and not exclusively used during stops. Thus, it makes data difficult to analyze. The data that is available in Chicago tends to show that communities of color are disproportionately targeted for stop-and-frisk activity.

In an effort to address this perceived problem, some are suggesting that Chicago PD be required to provide two key pieces of information regarding stop-and-frisks: why the person is being stopped and why he or she is being searched by police. This increase in information will provide more data and a more accurate picture of the number of people being stopped and frisked, as well as who they are. In addition, the Chicago PD is being asked to maintain a separate database with this information publicly accessible so that any patterns can be tracked.

Criminal Defense Attorney

While it has not been proven that racial profiling existed in the incident recounted above, it does appear to be a problem in Illinois and across the country. If you have been charged with a crime as the result of illegal police behavior, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately who can protect your rights. The Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley can defend your case. Contact us today for a consultation in our Rolling Meadows office.

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