Newsbrief: Lawsuit Charges Chicago Cops with Pattern of Illegal Stops, Searches of Minorities 3/28/03

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The Illinois American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit Monday charging Chicago police with a pattern of indiscriminately stopping young black and Hispanic men without any legal justification and then subjecting them to illegal searches. The suit was brought on behalf of three plaintiffs, two Chicago brothers and an Olympic speed skater, all of whom say they were lawfully walking on Chicago sidewalks when stopped and searched by police in separate incidents.

While the lawsuit is not strictly a racial profiling lawsuit -- it charges police with violating 4th Amendment rights against illegal searches -- ACLU of Illinois director Harvey Grossman told a Monday news conference that police were stopping "disproportionate" numbers of blacks and Hispanics.

There was "a custom of the part of the police department to stop, detain, and search young men due to inadequate training and supervision and failure to discipline officers who make these kinds of unlawful stops," said Grossman.

Lead plaintiff Shani Davis, the first African-American member of the US Olympic speed skating team, told the news conference how he was stopped and searched on March 30, 2001 as he went to have his hair braided. Police pulled his pants and underwear away from his body and shined a flashlight inside his pants, said Davis, adding that police claimed they were looking for drugs. "I felt powerless just from the fact that he had a weapon," said Davis. "I felt that my life could be at stake at any moment. I felt threatened."

Co-plaintiffs Damien and Quincy Joyner described a similar incident on West Belmont Avenue in January 2002. The two men were walking down the sidewalk when stopped and searched for no reason, said Damien Joyner. "We are not criminals, and we shouldn't be treated as if we were," Joyner added.

"These events demonstrate that there is a fundamental problem with the way police treat individuals on the streets of Chicago," said Grossman. "Young, law-abiding men like Shani Davis and the Joyners should not be subjected to this humiliating, abusive behavior."

According to the ACLU of Illinois, 71% of those stopped by police in the Belmont district and 91% of those stopped in the Rogers Park district were black or Hispanic. "We believe that the effect of this is that it disparately impacts on young men of color," Grossman said.

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Issue #280, 3/28/03 The Week Online Needs Your Help | Editorial: I Smuggled Coca Soap into the United States | Road to Vienna: British Government Chides International Narcotics Control Board on Cannabis Rescheduling Critique | Will Canada Marijuana Decriminalization Be Collateral Damage in Iraq War? | Maryland Legislature Rebuffs Drug Czar, Passes Medical Marijuana Bill, Awaits Governor's Signature | DRCNet Interview: Ed Forchion, the New Jersey Weedman | Newsbrief: DEA Issues Final Hemp Rule, Would Ban Hemp Food Products in Weeks, Hempsters Fight Back | Newsbrief: Bill to Allow Syringe Purchases Moving in Illinois Legislature | Newsbrief: Bill to Restrict Needle Exchanges Gets Push in Rhode Island | Newsbrief: Colombia to Get $100 Million Bounty for Supporting Iraq War | Newsbrief: More Americans Dead in Colombia | Newsbrief: Lawsuit Charges Chicago Cops with Pattern of Illegal Stops, Searches of Minorities | Newsbrief: Bush to Nominate Woman Prosecutor to Head DEA | Newsbrief: Silence on Pusherstrasse -- Christiania Drug Sellers Strike for Future of "Free City" | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story | Jobs at WOLA | The Reformer's Calendar

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