January 15, 2021

Community Coalition Seeks Court Intervention to Compel City of Chicago and Chicago Police to End Unlawful Warrants and Home Raids

CHICAGO– A coalition of community organizations and activists recently asked a federal court to intervene and force the City of Chicago to address the systemic abuse of unlawful warrants and home raids. This request marks the very first time that the court has been asked to enforce the 2019 consent decree meant to guide reform of the City’s police department. The Coalition organizations are: Black Lives Matter Chicago, Communities United, Community Renewal Society, the Chicago Urban League, Blocks Together, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Justice for Families—Black Lives Matter Chicago, Network 49, Women’s All Points Bulletin, 411 Movement for Pierre Loury, and Next Steps, ONE Northside, and the West Side Branch of the NAACP, and the ACLU of Illinois.

The issue of home raids by CPD officers gathered attention late last year when video emerged of the wrongful raid of Anjanette Young. The shocking video sparked national headlines and local outrage.

“CPD’s abhorrent and inhumane treatment of Black women must end with this enforcement motion. The City and CPD must negotiate with us in good faith and implement the comprehensive changes recommended by the Coalition that are needed to end–once and for all – CPD’s violence in the Black community and particularly the violence perpetrated on Black women’s bodies. If they fail to do so, we are prepared to seek punitive sanctions from the Court,” said Crista Noel, CEO and founder of the Women’s All Points Bulletin, WAPB Inc.

In an August 2020 letter to the City, the Coalition described numerous home-raid related Consent Decree violations – including a pattern of raids involving excessive force, traumatization, and abuse of women, children and families, and a failure to properly supervise and hold officers accountable. The Coalition requested a meeting with the City, independent monitor, and the Illinois Attorney General. Weeks later, the Illinois Attorney General also urged the City to work with the Coalition on the issues of home raids.

The City refused to respond. Silence has generally been the response to the Coalition’s consistent requests for the city to remedy its numerous failures to comply with the Decree.

“The trauma that Chicago police home raids cause is not new,” said Eric Wilkins, an organizer with Communities United. “For my community, home raids are just another predatory police tactic that harasses and degrades us. In Englewood and Roseland, these raids tear apart our homes and our families. This is why the Coalition has gone to court to make the City take this matter seriously and work with directly impacted communities.”

According to CPD’s own data, obtained by CBS 2 News, between January 2016 and January 2019, 45% of raids, roughly 3,000, did not result in an arrest. The data also shows that CPD continues to engage in racially-disparate policing. The five neighborhoods with the highest number of wrongful raids are Englewood, Austin, North Lawndale, Garfield Park and Humboldt Park, which are predominantly Black and Latinx.

A central concern for the coalition is the devastating impact of these practices on children and families. There is a clear pattern of excessive force and abuse towards families and children, including violently barging into homes, shouting and cursing, and pointing guns at small children.

“The City must show it is serious about addressing degrading home raids that result in unequal justice and lasting trauma by truly engaging with the Black and Brown communities harmed by these abuses,” added Nusrat Choudhury, Legal Director at the ACLU of Illinois. “By ignoring the Coalition’s request to meet, the City has forced us to seek court assistance for a process to address the broken systems leading to this abuse.”

Here, in particular, Chicago continues to fall short of the national standards, such as those established by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) which lays out specific recommendations for protecting children during adult searches and arrests. Other major cities, such as San Francisco and Indianapolis, have successfully adopted detailed protocols specifically addressing police interactions with children.

CPD does not even require officers executing search warrants to investigate whether children either live in the residence or are likely to be present during the raid. CPD does not train officers to either schedule raids when children are least likely to be present or plan raids with the goal of protecting children at the location. CPD search warrant policy implemented in January 2020 does not prohibit any specific conduct, including the pointing of guns at children.

CPD’s practice of executing unlawful warrants and raids is facilitated by a lack of accountability for officers.  Despite hundreds of complaints being filed about raids, hardly any result in consequences, and officers who are disciplined receive only minor sanctions. The twelve officers who facilitated the largest number of warrants resulting in negative raids amassed 446 complaints over a three-year period: 118 for illegal searches and 87 for excessive force. Only two complaints, for illegal search, were sustained and they resulted in a single day suspension and a reprimand.

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) is complicit in the failure of police accountability. Long delays in investigations, and COPA’s failure to investigate bad raids altogether, have allowed these practices to continue.

As the Independent Monitor reported, the City missed or ignored numerous deadlines for mandated reforms. When combined with the City’s continued refusal to engage with the Coalition directly, it is clear that court intervention is necessary to hold the City and CPD accountable to the Consent Decree and its Black and Brown communities.

“This has got to stop,” said Craig Futterman of the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School. “Long before they became a political crisis for the Lightfoot administration, we gave the City and CPD every opportunity to work with us to put an end to these shameful, racist raids that have hurt so many families. But for five months, we’ve heard nothing but crickets in response. The need for enforcement could not be more clear. CPD continues to show that it will not change unless the people of Chicago force it to change.”

The motion filed Wednesday asks for a structured settlement process to address the warrant and raid violations. If this process fails, the Coalition asks for the Court to schedule an evidentiary hearing during which it intends to request that the Court impose Sanctions on the City for its Consent Decree violations.