OIG Report Says CPD Search Warrants Disproportionately Targeted Black Residents

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A new interim report by the city of Chicago’s Office of the Inspector General says that Chicago Police Department search warrants disproportionately targeted people of color.

The report, which examined search warrants issued and executed between 2017 and 2020, found that Black men were targeted 4.6 times more than Hispanic or Latinx men and 25.3 times more than white men.

The disparity was also seen among women. Black women were targeted 6.4 times more often than Hispanic or Latinx women, and 11 times more than white women, according to the report.

“We found that in the population of these residential search warrants served over the last four years, 71.8% of the subjects of those search warrants were Black men,” Deborah Witzburg, deputy Inspector General for Public Safety, said.

Data analyzed in the report found that the highest concentration of search warrants were found on the South and West sides of the city.

While Chicago police emphasized that 89% of search warrants served within the window of the report were considered “gainful,” the OIG says that the numbers were skewed by a variety of factors.

“There are chance hits with the recovery of drugs in about 40% of cases,” Witzburg said. “There were chance hits of guns in about 24% of cases.”

Attorney Al Hofeld Jr., who represents victims of wrongful police raids, says the report paints a picture of an issue that needs to be addressed immediately.

“It’s tremendously inequitable that they are being obtained and executed,” he said. “The fallout is that families, including children, are being traumatized at much higher rates in these communities because of the disproportionate execution of search warrants there.”

The Inspector General’s office says that CPD has agreed with many of their recommendations, and expressed hope that work will continue to address the concerns raised by the report.

 “We are encouraged by CPD’s agreement with the recommendations we made in our first interim report earlier this year, and we will continue to work in this critical area,” the OIG said in a statement.

Police say they hope to improve on their performance in obtaining and executing warrants.  

“It is also important to point out that the department does not base search warrants on race, gender or geographic location,” the department said in a statement. “Chicago police serve search warrants entirely in an effort to improve public safety.”

CPD says it is implementing a revised search warrant policy “that enhances internal controls” over the serving of warrants.

“(The policy) requires officers to act in accordance with the Constitution and respect the human rights afforded to every person, limits no-knock search warrants only to when there is a danger to the life and safety of officers or another person, and requires an independent investigation to verify and corroborate information used in developing the search warrant,” the department said.

Even still, the OIG says there are still issues to be addressed, reporting that the system CPD uses to record information on  warrants misses several key datapoints, including whether children are present or whether a search warrant was approved as a “no-knock” warrant.

Those factors are certainly at play during a crucial time for police reform in the city.

“We are at a critical time for police reform,” Witzburg said. “I think we are running short of runway in terms of the reform effort. I think public patience with reform is running short.”

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