Target: Chicago Police Department
Goal: Stop the abusive profiling and inappropriate searches of Chicago citizens
Walking down Spaulding Street in Chicago can be a risky proposition at any time of day or night. The neighborhood, Humboldt Park, is well-known as a hotbed of illicit activity. With its plethora of drug dealers, gang bangers, and violent crimes, Humboldt Park is a dangerous neighborhood. It is precisely for this reason that you will find police officers patrolling the neighborhood day and night ensuring its safety. What is less well-known is that sometimes it is not just the criminals you have to worry about—often you need to worry about the police as well.
I have lived in Humboldt Park for six months now, and for the second time in as many months I was stopped this morning by a police officer who wanted to ask me some questions. My first run-in with being profiled as a gang member went relatively smoothly. The officer was polite and respectful and didn’t put his hands on me. He did inform me that he had profiled me as a Latino, but I don’t see a problem with that. Frankly, I get it all the time and Humboldt Park is the territory of the Kings, which is a Hispanic gang. However, on this particular sunny Chicago morning one of the two officers who stopped me was not only disrespectful but abusive. That is to say, he abused his power and privilege as a police officer by searching me without justifiable probable cause.
With my hands on the hood of the vehicle and the officer’s hands probing my body I asked the officer why he had decided to stop me. He responded by stating “you gave me that second look.” After consulting with legal advice and filing a complaint with the Chicago Police Department, I have come to understand that looking twice at an officer is an inappropriate reason to ‘frisk’ someone. And I use the term frisk very lightly, as the officer not only checked all my pockets (very thoroughly) but also felt the need to look up my shirt, down my pants and under my boxers—both front and back. Aside from being uncomfortable and humiliating, the search was wholly inappropriate and completely unjustified.
Eventually I was allowed to leave, but the incident left me wondering if I should take the officer’s advice the next time I am looking for an apartment in Chicago and “[not] move into the ghetto.” To be honest, it may be good advice, but what I will take away from this incident is better framed by another statement the officer made: “welcome to Chicago.” I appreciate the welcome, but now that I am here, it is time to change things. Help put an end to abuse of police powers by Chicago police officers by signing the petition below.
To the Chicago Police Department,
While ensuring the safety of our city’s neighborhoods is of paramount importance, protecting the rights of its citizens is equally so. Officers who are stopping citizens on the street for checks should be better trained on how to conduct these questionings and searches more appropriately.
Stopping someone and searching them for looking twice at an officer is not acceptable. Regardless of who is being questioned or searched we are all human beings and citizens of this city who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Furthermore, we are entitled to our basic rights as citizens and residents of the United States. Please put an end to unjustified profiling and searching of Chicago’s citizens.
[Your name here]
Photo credit: PhilCLogo via Flickr