ATF’s Alleged Racial Bias in Stings on Trial in Chicago

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A national policing expert who concluded that controversial drug stash house stings by federal law enforcement in Chicago were racially biased faced tough questions about his methodology Thursday as a landmark federal court hearing got underway in Chicago, the Chicago Tribune reports. The findings by Jeffrey Fagan are at the center of an unprecedented effort to dismiss charges against 43 stash house defendants due to alleged racial profiling by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Fagan, who analyzed 94 defendants in 24 stings conducted between 2006 and 2013, found that 74 of the defendants were black and only a handful were white — a disparity so large that there was “a zero percent likelihood” it happened by chance.

Federal prosecutors have said that Fagan intentionally skewed his results by using an “absurdly overbroad” control group of more than 292,000 people from eight Chicago-area counties to compare with the stash house defendants. Fagan, who also examined the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy, took the witness stand before a panel of nine federal judges who are holding an unprecedented joint hearing about the allegations of racial profiling in the stash house stings. The hearing could have national implications and drew a capacity crowd. Fagan said his statistical analysis showed “significant evidence of racial discrimination” that cannot be explained any other way, such as police targeting gang members or certain neighborhoods. “If it wasn’t those other things, then it’s race,” said Fagan, who was hired to do his analysis by the Federal Criminal Justice Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School, which is spearheading the effort to have the cases dismissed.

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