More than two million people might be eligible to join a class-action lawsuit over the Chicago Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices.
That’s according to attorneys suing CPD and the city, a lawsuit that was recently certified as a class action by a federal judge. The plaintiffs argue CPD disproportionately target young and middle-aged Black and Latino men for street stops in violation of their constitutional rights.
Attorney Antonio Romanucci of the firm Romanucci and Blandin, which first filed the lawsuit in 2015, described the CPD’s stop-and-frisk practices as “a systemic cultural cancer.”
“What we have learned from our litigation is that these stops were performed without any reasonable, articulable suspicion that a crime had been committed or that there was likelihood of one being committed,” Romanucci said. “In fact, the stops were either random (or) pretextual, and certainly, as we can tell you from the data that we have uncovered, they were disparate.”
Rashawn Lindsey, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said the street stops breed “a lot of mistrust.” Lindsey says he and two friends were stopped by an officer with a Taser drawn and handcuffed while walking home one night.
“They never gave me a reason for the stop … I’m feeling like I’m a criminal. I haven’t done anything,” said Lindsey, who was a student at Whitney Young at the time. “In that moment, it’s kinda scary to turn around and have a Taser on you. Knowing what I know now, seeing the stuff you see online, very well could be a gun.”
“Plaintiffs have made a sufficient showing that the City knew, or should have known, that its stop and frisk program was associated with a risk of widespread Fourth Amendment violations,” U.S. District Judge Andrea R. Wood wrote in her opinion. “The evidence shows that many contact cards contained facially insufficient justifications for investigatory stops and that the CPD’s own audits show a continuing (and worsening) pattern of unconstitutional stops under the ISR system. 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.”
WTTW News asked the city and the Chicago Police Department for comment. The city’s Law Department says it does not comment on ongoing litigation. CPD did not respond.