The Chicago City Council will hold a hearing August 2 to look into allegations of racial profiling practices by Chicago Police Department. The hearings, scheduled for 10 a.m.in City Council Chambers, are the result of calls by Chicago Ald. Isaac S. Carothers (29th). Carothers distributed a resolution last Thursday asking the council to hold Police and Fire Committee hearings in response to a study that showed Chicago police stop racial minorities at a higher rate than the percentage of minority drivers.
The call for hearings comes after a highly publicized incident last week between Chicago police and State Sen. James Meeks of Chicago that has refocused city officials on the issue of racial profiling. Two months earlier, Chicago police officials signed a pledge rejecting the practice as a law enforcement tactic.
Carothers said the resolution for hearings is the result of data from an Illinois Department of Transportation report that came out last month showing that minority-driven vehicles were stopped last year by Chicago police at a rate that was 15 percent higher than the percentage of minority drivers in the city.
The study, which will continue through 2007, also showed that minorities were three times more likely to consent to vehicle searches than whites. However, whites were more likely to receive tickets while minorities were given verbal warnings.
Carothers’ resolution states, “It is important to determine whether these disparities are the result of racial profiling, or whether they are the result of legitimate policing strategies based upon crime statistics.”
The Police Department does not object to holding the hearings, spokesman David Bayless said. “We welcome any opportunity to discuss our ongoing efforts to ensure that the officers are doing their jobs professionally and treating all citizens with dignity and respect.”
Lance Lewis, a spokesman for Mayor Richard M. Daley, declined to comment on the resolution, saying the mayor’s office was unfamiliar with it.
Carothers said he had been planning the hearings even before the traffic incident during which Meeks, who is pastor of the 17,000-member Salem Baptist Church, says he was racially profiled by a Chicago police officer. Meeks says after he got out of the car and identified himself as a state senator, the officer waved a gun at him.
The hearings would allow members of the public to testify about their experiences with police during traffic stops. The resolution called on Police Superintendent Philip Cline to address the study’s findings and whether current police department regulations are appropriate.
“I want to hear from the public in terms of their experience,” Carothers said.
Carothers said the report warrants hearings. “We have to see what the policy is,” he said.
Police and lawmakers are responding quickly to the Meeks incident, with police promising a fast investigation. Four aldermen, including Carothers, introduced an ordinance July 20 that would create a code of conduct for police and the public during a traffic stop and possibly levy fines for violations.
The ordinance requires police officers to be polite and motorists to remain in their cars with their hands clearly visible.
Bill Dwyer contributed to this report