State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (8th) is calling on Chicago’s Inspector General to audit, and make recommendations that would improve, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) response times in predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods like Austin. 

“No matter where someone lives, they deserve a prompt response when they call 9-1-1 in an emergency situation,” Ford said in a statement. “Even a few minutes can mean the difference between life and death. With violent crime at extremely high levels in many communities, this audit should be performed as quickly as is possible so we can determined if more police need to be on the street, or if the department is placing a lower priority on minority neighborhoods.” 

Ford cited a 2011 lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) with the Central Austin Neighborhood Association (CANA) charging CPD with maintaining response times that were slower in minority neighborhoods than in other parts of the city. 

Last year, the Illinois ACLU released findings from data it obtained from the city through Freedom of Information Action (FOIA) requests. The data revealed “a disparate system of deploying police officers across the city,” according to an ACLU statement released at the time.

The result of that disparity meant that police were “over-deployed’ in predominantly white neighborhoods, while they were either under-deployed or slower to respond to emergencies in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

“Sometimes people view the police as merely there to make arrests, but they also serve as a deterrent to crime because people are emboldened by the idea that they have a full five minutes to commit their crime before the police arrive.” 

Ford wants to work with the U.S. Congress to implement solutions to the disparity in response times that may include expanding the police presence on the streets in the areas with the lower response times. 

“I consider it like a restaurant,” said Ford in a recent interview. “If you don’t have enough cooks in the kitchen and the number of customers is increasing, you need to add additional individuals to keep up with the higher demand.”

Ford announced his proposal, House Resolution 569, in May and hopes the bill makes it out of committee to appear before the full House sometime this week. 

Michael Romain contributed to this article.