ACLU of IL Files Lawsuit Charging Illegal Police Detention and Search of U.S. Olympic Athlete

Affiliate: ACLU of Illinois
March 24, 2003 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Illinois
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CHICAGO–A member of the 2002 United States Winter Olympic Team was illegally stopped, detained and searched by police officers here, according to a federal lawsuit filed today by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

Shani Davis

From left to right: ACLU clients Damien Joyner and Shani Davis
with ACLU of Illinois Legal Director, Harvey Grossman

“I travel all over the world as an athlete and receive basic respect wherever I go,” said ACLU client Shani Davis, 20, a world-class speed skater who also holds a record in track and field. “It is infuriating to be treated like this in my home town. There is no reason that this should have happened to me.”

The lawsuit also names two brothers who — in a separate incident — were also stopped, detained and subjected to intrusive searches by Chicago police without any evidence of suspicion or wrongdoing.

“These events demonstrate that there is a fundamental problem with the way police treat individuals on the streets of Chicago,” said Harvey Grossman, Legal Director of the ACLU of Illinois. “Young, law-abiding men should not be subjected to this humiliating, abusive behavior.”

The ACLU lawsuit, filed on behalf of Davis and brothers Damien and Quincy Joyner — all of them African-American — recounts separate events in which Chicago police officers stopped the men while on foot, detained them and searched them without any lawful justification.

Attorneys with the ACLU of Illinois charged in the complaint that in addition to the violations of their clients’ rights, the incidents reflect a culture within the Chicago Police Department that causes such violations to occur on a regular basis. The result, the ACLU said, is unwarranted stops and searches of law-abiding young men, particularly African-Americans and Hispanics.

At the center of the lawsuit are similar events involving unwarranted stops and searches of both Davis and the Joyners at the hands of Chicago police officers. In March 2001, a city police officer confronted Davis as he walked along a sidewalk on Howard Street. The officer ordered Davis to put his hands against the wall and subjected him to an intrusive search.

After running his hands over Davis’ arms, legs and torso, the officer pulled Davis’ pants and underwear away from his body and shined a flashlight down his pants. He then ordered Davis to turn around and repeated the search. The officer also searched inside Davis’ pants pockets. The officer did not find-and Davis did not have-any illegal items on his person. Finally, Davis was allowed to proceed.

Davis also complained in the lawsuit filed today about another stop and search that occurred months earlier on Belmont Avenue.

In a similar incident that occurred in January 2002, Damien Joyner, 25, and Quincy Joyner, 31, were stopped by two city police officers while walking near Belmont and Clark Streets. The Joyner brothers were walking along Belmont toward the train station at Sheffield when the officers stopped them, ordered them to place their hands on a police vehicle and searched them both.

One of the police officers asked Quincy Joyner about the contents of a bag he was carrying and searched through the camera equipment and papers in the bag without permission. The officers did not find-and the Joyners did not have-any illegal items, the ACLU noted in its complaint.

In its lawsuit, the ACLU seeks a court order requiring the City of Chicago to adequately train, supervise and to discipline, when appropriate, Chicago police officers in stopping, detaining and searching civilians on the street. The lawsuit also seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for Davis and the Joyners to compensate the men for the humiliation and maltreatment they suffered.

“The entire experience was disconcerting and humiliating,” said Damien Joyner. “My brother and I did nothing wrong. We were simply stopped, detained and searched without cause. Being on the street should not be a crime.”

Edward W. Feldman of the Chicago law firm Miller, Shakman & Hamilton is serving as cooperating counsel in the case, Shani Davis, Damien Joyner and Quincy Joyner v. City of Chicago. To read the legal complaint filed in this case please go to: www.aclu-il.org/mailings/daviscomplaint.pdf

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