City of Highland Park and ACLU Reach Landmark Agreement to Prevent Racial Profiling

Affiliate: ACLU of Illinois
July 12, 2000 12:00 am

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HIGHLAND PARK, IL — Calling it a positive resolution for all parties involved, the City of Highland Park and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois today announced agreement on a plan designed to safeguard against racial profiling by police.

“We credit Highland Park officials for their diligence in pursuit of this agreement,” said Harvey Grossman, legal director of the ACLU of Illinois. “It is a model that all cities can use to guard against racial profiling by police officers.”

The agreement expands upon and enforces a set of initiatives recently adopted by Highland Park to ensure that racial profiling does not exist. The actions were taken in the wake of profiling allegations made by current and former police officers who had filed an unfair labor practices lawsuit against the City.

The agreement was contained in a proposed consent decree filed today in U.S. District Court in Chicago to settle a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of two African American residents of Highland Park, Karen Lynn Ledford and her son, Michael.

“The goals of Highland Park and the ACLU in this matter were the same: to make sure that law enforcement officers do not target minorities. Given that, we decided it was in our mutual interest to work together rather than engage in a disruptive and costly lawsuit,” said Highland Park Mayor Daniel Pierce.

Michael Ledford, a college student and life long resident of Highland Park, noted that his family’s involvement in the case grew out of deep concern over the issue of racial profiling.

“We sought no damages or compensation for ourselves,” he said. “We did not seek to accuse or to punish any individual members of the Highland Park Police Department. Instead, we simply wanted a set of enforceable guidelines insuring that racial profiling will not be tolerated or condoned.”

Mayor Pierce agreed. “Entering into this agreement serves the best interests of all parties, including the taxpayers of Highland Park. While we may have differing perspectives on this particular case, we share the ACLU’s goals of eliminating the potential for racial profiling and we appreciate the organization’s willingness to work with us in good faith.”

The measures contained in the decree include:

  • Consideration of race: Highland Park police officers will not consider 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 will also require officers to report any conduct by other officers who engage in racial profiling. (This section of the consent decree enforces a recent General Order of the Highland Park Police Department that prohibits 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 six months to 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 the 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: Upon the request of ACLU attorneys on a quarterly basis, the City of Highland Park will make available 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.

As part of the settlement, the City of Highland Park denies all wrongdoing alleged by the Ledfords and asserts that it has not engaged in discriminatory law enforcement practices or adopted policies that target any persons based on race or ethnicity. The City and the ACLU agreed to resolve the matter in order to avoid lengthy and expensive litigation.

The City is not required to pay any damages, fines, penalties or legal fees of any kind to any party. Under the terms of the consent decree, the ACLU will not file any other racial profiling complaints based on events occurring prior to July 2000.

Karen Lynn Ledford expressed satisfaction with the agreement. “We pursued this matter in hopes of reaching this conclusion,” she said. “This settlement reflects the dynamic, progressive nature of Highland Park that drew us to the community in the first place. The bottom line is accountability. Thanks to this agreement, police now will be more accountable to the public.”

The ACLU’s Grossman praised the Ledfords for their courageous and selfless role in successfully completing this process.

“The Ledfords are to be commended for taking a stand, for raising awareness about discrimination and for serving as a catalyst to this important agreement,” he said. “They have ultimately helped ensure that no one in their community, and across the state and country, will be treated unfairly.”

A federal judge will rule on the agreement within thirty days. Once it is signed, Highland Park will be obligated to enforce the agreement’s terms and conditions for five years. However, the agreement will terminate in three years if the City shows consistent compliance by enforcing initiatives, making required records available for review, and properly handling any allegations concerning racial discrimination.

If the agreement is not met, both parties will seek relief using voluntary dispute resolution prior to seeking further action.

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