Police Accountability

While New York City has received wide publicity on its controversial “stop-and-frisk” practices, which disproportionally stop high numbers of law-abiding Latino and black individuals, Chicago has not received such attention. Nevertheless, for years, police and prison data has indicated that race is a major player in Illinois’ criminal justice system. In 2008, police data revealed that minority drivers were 2.5 times as likely as Caucasian drivers to be the subject of consent searches, though police are 1.6 times more likely to find “contraband” in a vehicle of a Caucasian driver.

Yet the need for police accountability does not stop at racial profiling. Wrongful convictions – especially in murder cases – have long been an issue in Illinois. Forced confessions from torture under the Burge administation and procedural problems in administering line-ups and photo arrays have put many innocent men and women behind bars. In fact, “in Illinois, 54 innocent people have spent a total of 601 years behind bars because of erroneous eyewitness convictions, according to an analysis by the Center on Wrongful Convictions.”

While Illinois has made great strides in moving toward police accountability – including comprehensive criminal justice reforms that safeguard against coerced confessions in 2003 and introduction of reporting requirements on traffic stops from every law enforcement agency in 2004 – there is much still to be done. We must ensure that the police force and Chicago’s citizens work together for positive community change.

Find out more information about police accountability issues from our partners, including:

Center for Wrongful Convictions: The Center on Wrongful Convictions is dedicated to identifying and rectifying wrongful convictions and other serious miscarriages of justice in Illinois. The Center has three components: representation, research, and community services.

Chicago Justice Project: Chicago Justice Project (CJP) is an independent, non-profit research organization. CJP strives to access and analyze data from criminal justice agencies to promote evidence based reforms that will better serve the justice needs of local communities.

Citizens Alert: Citizens Alert is Chicago’s oldest police accountability organization, and works for more humane and effective law enforcement in Chicago.

MacArthur Justice Center: Roderick MacArthur Justice Center (the Justice Center) is committed to addressing problems of police misconduct through systemic litigation.

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