The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois recently filed a lawsuit against the city of Chicago in Cook County Circuit Court alleging that response times to emergency calls in high-crime areas of the city with larger black and Hispanic populations are slower than in white-majority areas, thus violating the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003.
The lawsuit, filed Oct. 27, is being brought under the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003 which makes it unlawful for government to provide services in a manner that has a disparate negative effect on any racial group.
Suing on behalf of themselves and the Central Austin Neighborhood Association, a Chicago community group, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) alleges that the city’s minority neighborhoods have a disproportionately low number of officers than white districts.
Harvey Grossman, legal director for the ACLU of Illinois, said the longtime pattern of ignoring 911 calls from minority communities has gone on too long and needs to end immediately.
“It is widely known that 911 calls are more likely to go without response in minority neighborhoods when compared to white neighborhoods,” explained Grossman. “For too long, the city has hoarded the information that would have revealed the full scope of this problem. Now that we are seeing data, it is time to take definitive steps to correct the problem.”
Rather than seek monetary damages the ACLU instead is requesting a permanent injunction barring the city from using the current method of deploying officers. In the lawsuit it asks the court to order the city of Chicago to submit a plan on deploying officers in a way that would make minority neighborhoods receive equal services when it comes to responses to 911 calls.
At an Oct. 27 news conference at the ACLU headquarters Ron Reed, who is black and lives in the predominately black populated Austin community on the West Side, spoke about the difficulties of getting the Chicago police to respond to emergency calls.
“Over the past several years I have personally and repeatedly dialed 911 to report illegal activity outside our home, on our block and in our community. (But) time and time again, we call the police and they rarely respond.”
Reed had previously lived in west suburban Oak Park but now lives two blocks from a police station in Austin and added that “despite living walking distance from the police station I still cannot get any assistance when I call.”
At an unrelated event Thursday Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel defended the deployment of police officers throughout the city, though he admitted that redeploying officers to the city’s most crime-ridden neighborhoods remains a work in progress.
“We have applied more resources to the areas that need them and we are not done,” Emanuel said. ““We’re ahead of where we were on May 15. We’re not done applying our resources — by holding commanders accountable or applying manpower. But it is not just manpower alone.”
Since taking office in May Emanuel has redployed 1,000 officers to high-crime areas.
“I’m not done, nor is Garry McCarthy, the superintendent of the police department, or Al Wysinger, the first deputy, in looking to see if we need to put more officers where we have a crime problem,” added Emanuel.
Calls to 911 in predominately white communities were lower than those in minority communities, according to city records.
The Town Hall District, whose residents are mostly white, there were 64,000 calls placed to 911 from January 2009 through Oct. 24, 2010, while in the Chicago Lawn District, whose residents are mostly black, there were 130,000 calls placed over the same periods.