HUMBOLDT PARK — Chicago Police officers are still learning to find a balance between "stop and frisk" street stops of the past and stringent new oversight that was put in place in the fall, according to two commanders.
The "landmark agreement" between the Chicago Police Department and the American Civil Liberties Union was meant to bring increased transparency and accountability for police actions, but has resulted in fewer stops and more trepidation by officers.
Reporter Paul Biasco on CPD struggles with the ACLU agreement.
The issue came up during an emergency police meeting in Humboldt Park on Tuesday night when a citizen asked the commanders of the Near West and Shakespeare districts why their officers weren't "harassing" groups of supposed drug dealers along Division Street.
"We aren’t in the business of harassing citizens as police officers," said Fabian Saldana, acting commander of the Shakespeare District. "We can’t do it. We have to respect people's constitutional rights. If they are on the sidewalk and not doing anything, we cannot just roll up on ‘em and say, 'What are you guys doing?'"
Before the agreement between the department and ACLU, officers might have gotten away with that "harassment."
The phenomenon, which has been referred to as the "ACLU Effect," has led to fewer stops on the street, according to police. The ACLU has rejected that idea.
Now under the new policy, officers must fill out a two-page report rather than an index-card-sized checklist every time they stop someone on the street.
The reports, known as investigatory stop reports, are detailed and force an officer to put on paper why he or she made the stop.
"Our rules of engagement, so to speak, are pretty strict. We are under review by the ACLU and the Department of Justice currently right now," Saldana said during Tuesday's crime meeting. "We have to remain pretty much 100 percent strict with our rules of engagement."
Saldana urged residents to call 911 and give detailed descriptions to help give officers probable cause for street stops.
"We have to have probably cause to stop somebody in the first place. That's why we say you have to call 911," he said. "We all know where there's dope, there's guns. There's always somebody who's got security out there. They aren't selling dope unarmed."
Tuesday's emergency meeting, called by Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th), followed a surge of violence in Humboldt Park that the alderman said hadn't been seen in the last five years.
As of last week, street stops in Chicago were down nearly 90 percent.
From the start of the year to late March, police made 20,908 recorded investigative stops, according to Anthony Guglielmi, a Police Department spokesman. Over the same period last year, there were 157,346 recorded stops.
Saldana said officers in the Shakespeare District were still being trained on filling out the new investigatory stop reports, but as of this week more than 75 percent of the department was trained on the reports.
"We have to mentor and positively push these [reports] sand get these officers' confidence back up to do these street stops," Saldana said. "With more street stops, more guns come in.”
The acting commander said supervisors in the districts had been pushing officers during roll calls to get up to speed on the reports and new department policies.
"How do you tell the mother of a person who just died that we aren’t doing [stops] because the police officer is afraid of it?" he said. "No we can’t do that. We’re not going to. I'm not going to. That's not ethical. That's not the right thing to do."
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