Suit alleging police deployment inequalities in black, Hispanic communities dismissed

Crime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemAmerican Civil Liberties UnionHarveyAmerican Civil Liberties Union of IllinoisRahm EmanuelChicago Mayor

A Cook County judge has dismissed a civil rights lawsuit that alleged inequalities in how Chicago police deploy officers in predominantly black and Hispanic communities.

In a 10-page ruling last week, Judge Neil Cohen ruled that the court does not have the authority or expertise to decide where the police department should place its cops, saying it would amount to “judicial interference” in policy decisions that are the responsibility of the Mayor Rahm Emanuel and City Council.

“This is the stuff of law enforcement theory and political policy-making, not (legal) adjudication,” Cohen wrote.

The suit was based on news reports that found police districts that cover minority neighborhoods had disproportionately fewer officers than those covering white neighborhoods, as measured by response times to emergency calls and rates of serious violent crime.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which filed the lawsuit last October with a neighborhood group from Chicago’s crime-plagued West Side, said it will appeal the decision to the Illinois Appellate Court.

In a statement, Harvey Grossman, the ACLU legal director in Chicago, criticized the judge’s reasoning.

“While the court says in its opinion that this is a ‘political decision’ that needs to be addressed by the Mayor and City Council, three decades of inaction... for beat reallocation demonstrates clearly that minority communities lack the political power to achieve equal police services through that process,” Grossman said.

Michael Shields, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents rank-and-file officers, applauded the judge’s decision. He had publicly spoken out against the lawsuit, saying remapping police beats should be decided by city officials, the police union and the community, not the ACLU or one judge.

“The judge’s ultimate decision was our entire argument,” Shields said.

jgorner@tribune.com

 

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