ACLU Welcomes Final Ruling in Court-Approved Plan to Prevent Racial Profiling in Highland Park, IL

Affiliate: ACLU of Illinois
September 27, 2000 12:00 am

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CHICAGO– The City of Highland Park and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois today welcomed a federal judge’s ruling approving a consent decree that establishes precedent-setting initiatives designed to prevent racial profiling.

The consent decree, negotiated in July, resolves a lawsuit, Ledford v. the City of Highland Park, in which African American residents Karen Lynn Ledford, and her son, Michael, claim they were victims of discriminatory law enforcement. The decree expands upon and enforces a set of initiatives adopted by Highland Park last spring to ensure that racial profiling does not exist.

“This decree is cutting edge, a ‘state of the art’ tool designed to prevent and guard against racial profiling in communities nationwide. We are gratified by the judge’s action and impressed with the City of Highland Park’s commitment to making this work, ” said Harvey M. Grossman, Legal Director for the ACLU of Illinois and counsel for the Ledfords.

Grossman also praised the consent decree as a national model for communities seeking to assure the public that their police do not engage in racial profiling.

“The City of Highland Park has worked tirelessly to put systems in place to safeguard against racial profiling. Today’s ruling allows us to move forward and deliver what we believe is the most efficient and effective program to ensure our goal of fairness, ” said Highland Park Mayor Daniel Pierce.

Karen Lynn Ledford, a victim of racial profiling, said her family is “delighted and gratified by today’s action.” She noted that the decree is predicated upon accountability, “to the courts and accountability to the public.”

Her son, Michael, also expressed satisfaction noting that the decree “insures that race will never be used as a pretext for tailing, stopping or searching any individual in Highland Park.”

The consent decree holds the City of Highland Park accountable for initiatives it began to put in place this summer. These measures include:

* Consideration of race: Highland Park police officers will not consider in any fashion the racial appearance or ethnicity of any civilian in deciding to surveil, stop, detain, interrogate, request consent to search or search any civilian unless they are seeking to detain, apprehend, or otherwise be on the lookout for a specific suspect described in part by race or ethnicity when sought in connection with a crime. The Highland Park Police Department also will require officers to report any conduct by other officers who engage in racial profiling.

* Documentation of incidents: For every incident involving a stop, detention, interrogation and/or search, officers must document and record information including the name and identification number of the officer(s) involved; data on the civilian involved including the gender, race and ethnicity of those stopped; background on the incident including reasons for the detention, whether or not a consensual search was granted or a civilian was frisked and basis for non-consensual searches, and (if applicable) basis to employ a drug-detection canine and what contraband, if any, was discovered. The Highland Park Police Department will collect, record, and store the required information using a computerized data system. They will also track and analyze this information on at least an annual basis.

* The use of in-car video and audio equipment: The Highland Park Police Department will install video and audio equipment in every marked patrol car within one year of the signed agreement. The Police Department will also provide training on how to best use and maintain the equipment so that it can better monitor interactions and protect all parties involved.

* Supervision of incident documentation and video and audio transmissions: The City of Highland Park will develop and implement an effective program for reviewing documentation of incidents and any associated video and audio recordings. If an authorized supervisor detects possible discrimination based on race or ethnicity the incident will be referred to an internal investigative unit that will take appropriate disciplinary action if needed.

* Tracking civilian complaints: All officers are required to inform civilians that they have a right to make a complaint, which can be initiated in person, by mail, by telephone, facsimile or over the Internet. Every complaint will be investigated. Additionally, Highland Park will continue to refine and implement an effective system for analyzing and evaluating civilian complaints that is has developed.

* Training: All Highland Park Police Department recruits and officers will receive mandatory training in cultural diversity issues that will also include training on communication skills, integrity and ethics, reporting of misconduct by fellow officers, and professionalism. This training will be reinforced through mandatory annual in-service training.

* Inspection of records: On a quarterly basis, the City of Highland Park will provide ACLU attorneys with all incident reports involving stops, detentions and/or searches, stored computer data, and all complaints alleging racial discrimination. For legal reasons, the City may not disclose to ACLU attorneys any juvenile record, a complaint subject to an ongoing investigation, and the names of complainants who expressly withheld their consent to disclose such information.

“With careful oversight and authority from the court, we are confident that the decree will be fully implemented and will work to benefit the people of Highland Park and all those who travel through the City,” said Grossman.

Volunteer cooperating attorneys from the Chicago law firm of Schiff, Hardin and Waite, Paul Greenwalt, Matthew Fisher and Carolyn Moorehouse assisted the ACLU of Illinois in this case.

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