* Earlier this month, the Illinois ACLU asked the US Justice Department to investigate “the substantial racial disparate impact cause by consent searches conducted by Illinois State Police troopers of Hispanic and African American motorists.” The ACLU took a look at available data and concluded…
Data demonstrates that almost all motorists – between 94% and 99% — consent to a search when asked by an ISP trooper, suggesting that the coercive nature of the encounter renders the “consent” not truly voluntary. […]
…Hispanic and African American motorists are far more likely than white motorists to be subjected to consent searches by ISP troopers. Hispanic motorists were 2.7 to 4.0 times more likely to be consent searches (in the years between 2004 and 2009), and African Americans motorists were 1.8 to 3.2 times more likely. Remarkably, white motorists who consent to searches by ISP troopers are far more likely to have contraband than compared to Hispanic and African American motorists. [Emphasis added.]
Keep in mind that this is about “consent” searches, not searches based on reasonable cause. Those searches can be done without the driver’s consent.
* From the Tribune…
“These [consent] searches are carried out on a hunch, and it’s clear the Illinois State Police have hunches more frequently with black or brown drivers, and that those hunches turn out to be wrong more frequently for black and brown drivers,” said Harvey Grossman, legal director for the ACLU of Illinois.
Grossman said the group decided to ask the Department of Justice to intervene because it would be quicker than a court case, and because the agency’s civil rights division has taken an active role under Obama.
A spokeswoman for the federal agency says it will review the complaint.
* The AP adds…
The ACLU’s figures show only 177 state police consent searches produced any contraband, and more than half of it came from white drivers. Mostly what troopers found was alcohol and drug paraphernalia. They found weapons only 14 times and more than 50 grams of drugs only eight times.
* The State Police say other police agencies are worse…
“Consent searches are a tool recognized and authorized by the U.S. Supreme Court,” department spokesman Scott Compton said in a statement. “In 2009, ISP requested consent from 2 out of every 1,000 motorists stopped. This statistic demonstrates that troopers … are not abusing the use of consent searches.”
He said state police were less likely than other departments to seek permission to search minority drivers. Overall, 2 percent of minority drivers were asked to allow a search during traffic stops in 2009, but among stops by the state police the figure was only 0.4 percent, down from 1.35 percent in 2005.
* But now the governor is stepping in and wants a review…
Gov. Pat Quinn has asked the head of the Illinois State Police to review allegations of racial bias in the department’s handling of searches during traffic stops.
* In other police-related news, Illinois’ extremely harsh eavesdropping law is racking up more outrageous felony charges against alleged violators, including Michael Allison…
This Robinson, Ill., man is facing four counts of violating the eavesdropping law for the recordings he made of police officers and a judge. Allison was suing the city to challenge a local zoning ordinance that prevented him from enjoying his hobby fixing up old cars: The municipal government was seizing his cars from his property and forcing him to pay to have them returned. Allison believed the local police were harassing him in retaliation for his lawsuit, so he began to record his conversations with them.
When Allison was eventually charged with violating the zoning ordinance, he asked for a court reporter to ensure there would be a record of his trial. He was told that misdemeanor charges didn’t entitle him to a court reporter. So Allison told court officials he’d be recording his trial with a digital recorder.
When Allison walked into the courtroom the day of his trial, the judge had him arrested for allegedly violating her right to privacy. Police then confiscated Allison’s digital recorder, where they also found the recordings he’d made of his conversations with cops.
Allison has no prior criminal record. If convicted, he faces up to 75 years in prison.
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