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Race & Justice News: Chicago Police Stops Outpace New York’s Stop and Frisk Peak

April 15, 2015
Chicago's stop and risk rate is higher than New York's, a documentary depicts efforts to desegregate California prison cells, and more in our latest Race & Justice News.

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Chicago’s Stop and Frisk Rate Higher than New York’s

The ACLU of Illinois found that the Chicago Police Department (CPD) is unlawfully stopping a “shocking number of people” and singling out people of color. “Chicagoans were stopped more than four times as often as New Yorkers at the height of New York City’s stop and frisk practice.” In the summer of 2014, CPD made over 250,000 stops that did not lead to an arrest. While blacks constitute about a third of the city’s population, they accounted for nearly three-quarters of all stops.

Stop-and-frisk in Chicago

Source: ACLU of Illinois

CPD has increased pedestrian stops under the leadership of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who spent much of his career in the New York Police Department and was previously the police chief in Newark, New Jersey. Both those cities’ stop and frisk policies have received court challenges. CPD does not collect systematic data on all frisks or stops that result in an arrest or ordinance violation.

In order to begin to restore trust in the community, the ACLU recommends: collect data on all stops and frisks and make them public, provide regular training on legal requirements for stops and frisks, and require officers to issue a detailed receipt for every pedestrian stop. The report’s findings were also featured in Newsweek.

Philadelphia Police Continue Stop and Frisks Without Reasonable Suspicion

The Philadelphia Police Department continues to stop and frisk tens of thousands of individuals — particularly people of color ­­­— without legal justification, according to a recent report by the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the law firm of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg. This is the fifth report since the city entered into a consent decree in 2011 following a lawsuit about its stop and frisk practices.

The report found that 37% of the over 200,000 pedestrian stops in 2014, and 39% of frisks were made without reasonable suspicion. Although Philadelphia’s population is 55% black or Hispanic, racial minorities accounted for 80% of stops and 89% of frisks. The report notes that factors other than an individual’s race, such as neighborhood demographics or crime rates, do not fully explain these racially disparate outcomes. Furthermore, the report found that contraband was seized in only 5% of frisks in 2013. Attorney David Rudovsky explains: “The department has done a lot of retraining, but unless you properly supervise and hold people accountable, it’s hard to get results.”

Cumulative Racial Disadvantage in the Criminal Justice System

Black and Latino defendants face disadvantages that accumulate across multiple decision-making points in the criminal justice system, according to a study published in Criminology by Besiki Kutateladze, Nancy Andiloro, Brian Johnson, and Cassia Spohn. Using a broad sample of felony and misdemeanor dispositions in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in 2010-2011, the researchers found that black and Latino individuals were more likely than whites to experience more punitive outcomes at nearly every discretionary case-processing stage. These patterns generally held even after controlling for legally relevant factors such as offense severity and criminal history, and for socioeconomic measures.

Racial and ethnic disparities were particularly pronounced in pretrial detention, plea offers, and the use of incarceration – particularly for those with felony charges. The exception was for case dismissals, where defendants of color had generally higher odds than white defendants of having their cases dismissed. This may represent cases in which blacks and Latinos were arrested despite insufficient evidence to support prosecution. A related study underscored this point, suggesting that the Manhattan District Attorney’s policy of tying plea offers to arrest history leaves racial disparities in policing unchecked. The cumulative analysis also showed that Asian Americans experienced the least punitive outcomes across all measures.

Documentary Depicts Efforts to Desegregate California Prison Cells

In an Ideal World is an intimate portrait of three men on the frontlines of efforts to transform prison’s racially divided culture. The documentary follows a warden and two incarcerated men, one white and one black, for seven years inside a California prison as they navigate deeply entrenched racial divisions. The two incarcerated men, serving life sentences with the possibility of parole, learned the “codes” for survival in prison from their respective groups, and over three decades gained influence and status in prison. The Supreme Court’s ruling requiring prison cell desegregation challenges both the prisoners and the warden alike, while a novel mixed-race program produces cause for optimism. The film reveals the hopes and the hidden risks of transformative change, and the institutional nature of racial hierarchies. For distribution information, contact Noel Schwerin at:

The Political Roots of Racial Tracking in American Criminal Justice

In The Political Roots of Racial Tracking in American Criminal Justice, Colgate University political science professor Nina M. Moore examines why the policy process has failed to redress longstanding racial disparities in the American justice system. Moore begins by documenting “a form of racial tracking within the American criminal justice system whereby one track is reserved mostly for whites and a separate track for blacks.” She shows both numerical imbalance and differences in the nature of black law enforcement experiences at every stage of the criminal justice process. Moore then develops a public policy process-centered theory — drawing on Supreme Court Rulings since the 1930s, political party platforms and presidential statements since the 1960s, and public opinion surveys since 2000 — to show how colorblind jurisprudence and bipartisan “get tough” policies have been supported by the tacit consent and endorsement of the American public and policymakers. The public’s stance, she argues, has been boosted by mass media’s “blacks-are-criminals” script and the public’s tendency to see crime as rooted in individual failures rather than societal conditions.

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