Court Battles

Judge grants class-action status to Chicago stop-and-frisk lawsuit

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An Illinois federal judge granted class-action status to a lawsuit against the city of Chicago over the police department’s stop-and-frisk policies.

U.S. District Court Judge Andrea Wood orally ruled on Aug. 31 that the motion for class-action certification was granted, law firms representing the plaintiffs said in a statement on Tuesday.

The lawsuit, which was filed in 2015, argued that the Chicago Police Department (CPD) used the practice to disproportionately stop and search members of minority groups. It also alleged that the practice violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The attorneys say the CPD directed offers to certain neighborhoods to stop “the right people” and “put your hands on them” without regard to whether there was a basis to stop them.

In their statement, the attorneys said they filed the suit after it was revealed that Chicago police officers conducted over 250,000 stops over four months in 2015. These stops were mainly of Black residents and visitors, and none of them led to arrests.

In her ruling, Wood said that the plaintiffs were able to show that the city should have known that the program was associated with “widespread Fourth Amendment violations,” noting that data from the police department showed “a continuing (and worsening) pattern of unconstitutional stops.”

“Moreover, Plaintiffs have adduced evidence that CPD’s response to this problem actually facilitated the coverup of unconstitutional stops, as evidenced by supervisors providing false information to officers to give stops the appearance of constitutionality,” Woods wrote.

Antonio Romanucci, one of the plaintiffs in the case, called the decision a “landmark ruling in the city of Chicago.”

“When you see the disparate nature of the stops that overwhelmingly targeted Black and Hispanic men, and you add up the sheer number of stops over the years — well above 2 million — it is clear to see how the community trust in police has eroded to where it is today,” Romanucci said.

The complaint names the city, former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and numerous individual CPD officers as defendants.

Chicago’s Department of Law, which provides legal counsel for the city, told The Hill “the City does not comment on ongoing litigation.”

–Updated at 10:24 a.m.

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