An Austin nonprofit organization has been given a reprieve by the courts in its ongoing legal battle with the city of Chicago concerning police data.
An appellate court last month reversed a decision that originally ruled in favor of the city in a lawsuit filed by the Central Austin Neighborhood Association (CANA). The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois (ACLU) was also a plaintiff in the suit.
The reinstated suit alleges that 911 response times for predominantly African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods are slower than response times in white communities. That’s because Chicago officials have failed to deploy police equitably across the city’s many diverse neighborhoods, the 2011 suit alleges.
But last year, a trial court dismissed the complaint by the two groups, saying it was a political rather than judicial issue.
The ACLU says the unequal deployment of officers violates the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003 — the law makes it unlawful for government to provide services in a manner that has a disparate negative effect on any racial group.
The plaintiffs were denied staffing data by the Chicago Police Department, on the basis that it would reveal too much information about understaffed areas to criminals.
Last month’s unanimous decision by a three-judge panel allows CANA and ACLU to move ahead with subpoenas for the data, said CANA co-founder Serethea Reid.
The ACLU, via a press statement, called the decision a big win for all of Chicago’s minority neighborhoods.
The ruling comes at a time when aldermen have been questioning Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s policy of paying existing officers overtime to patrol high-crime areas, rather than hiring new officers.
Austin has lost 33 police officer positions since October 2011, according to data obtained by the ACLU. And citywide, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, the number of beat cops — as of September 2013 — was 6,394, down from 7,000 two years before.
“We look forward to returning to the circuit court and having the city justify its method of police deployment,” Harvey Grossman, legal director for the ACLU of Illinois, said in the statement.