The number of street stops by the Chicago Police Department has plummeted 5 percent in a year, but African Americans continued to account for the vast majority of those detained and frisked, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. That’s the case even though African Americans were no more likely to be found with weapons or drugs than were people of other racial backgrounds, the Sun-Times found by analyzing data on stops collected by the department for the first time in 2016. Police reported stopping thousands of people because they fit the description of a criminal suspect, were found near the scene of a crime, or acted in a manner deemed “indicative” of drug dealing.
In most cases, officers checked a box on their reports for “other” to explain the justification for the stop. “It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” says Alderman Roderick Sawyer, chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus. He says many of his South Side constituents would like the police to be more aggressive in searching for guns. Sawyer says he’s concerned the police continue to stop people without a “reasonable suspicion” of a crime, which is required for an investigatory stop to be constitutional. “Were the reasons legitimate?” the alderman says. “Or is it still ‘walking while black?’ ” Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi says the department tries to safeguard rights as it protects the public: “Good policing and civil rights are not mutually exclusive.”