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ACLU urges police restraint

Tuesday, Apr 7, 2020

* Gregory Pratt at the Tribune

To enforce social distancing and a stay-at-home order, Chicago police have dispersed groups more than 1,500 times in the last week and have issued 11 citations and made three arrests.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot cited those figures as she renewed her plea for people to stay home and avoid crowds as temperatures are expected to rise into the 70s on Tuesday.

“We’re going to keep stepping up our enforcement efforts,” Lightfoot said at a news conference Monday at Soldier Field. “I want to be clear: It’s not that people are going out, although we want people to really stay home. The issue is congregating and that’s what we can’t tolerate.

“Police have been very aggressive in issuing dispersal orders, citations where necessary, and luckily we’ve only had a small number of arrests,” she added. “But people have to understand, yes, it’s a beautiful day, the weather’s getting warmer, but we need people to continue to comply.”

* It’s a beautiful day today, so there’s some worry that enforcement will ramp up. The ACLU of Illinois hasn’t heard of any real enforcement problems yet, but the group decided to issue this today just in case…

As Illinois moves into its third week under a “stay at home” order issued by the Governor, police across Illinois are being reminded that their role is to build voluntary compliance with the order, not use it as an excuse to make mass arrests. The reminder comes in the form of an open call - issued today by the ACLU of Illinois - to law enforcement across the State of Illinois.

“All of our energies now must be targeted at reducing the spread of COVID-19 and acting in accordance with appropriate public health recommendations,” said Rachel Murphy, Staff Attorney with the ACLU of Illinois. “This public health approach must also consider changes to law enforcement practices, so that we protect both the police and the general public with whom they interact.”

The ACLU points to public health experts’ directions to prevent further spread by reducing the number of opportunities for exposure and educating the public on the importance of social distancing. The call makes clear that by reducing interactions with the public, limiting arrests and focusing enforcement of stay home orders on education and voluntary compliance, police across Illinois can make a valuable contribution to reducing the spread of COVID-19.

Specifically, police are encouraged to reduce stops and arrests by:

    • Drastically limiting all contacts - including pedestrian stops and traffic stops - to situations where there is an imminent threat of bodily harm;
    • Taking necessary precautions, including practicing social distancing and wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), when they must make contact with a member of the public;
    • Only taking individuals into custody as a last resort.

Regarding the enforcement of stay at home orders, the ACLU recommends that police take the following steps:

    • Officers will promote compliance with public health orders through education and requests to disperse, not arrests or ticketing. If several attempts at education are not persuasive, officers will seek a cease and desist order before resorting to tickets or arrest.
    • Officers will assume individuals walking or driving their cars alone or in small groups are engaging in an essential activity, such as exercise and caring for a pet or family member, and will not question, cite, or arrest those individuals.
    • Officers will not set up checkpoints to enforce any public health ordinances, even in the case of extreme emergency.
    • As a means to reduce arrests, officers must communicate with a supervisor and obtain approval before making an arrest under the order. Supervisors will first explore whether the officer has already used other means of achieving compliance.
    • Officers will follow existing prohibitions on racial profiling.

If Illinois residents are concerned about the way in which their local police are enforcing stay home orders, they can reach out to the ACLU of Illinois at


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Another oje - Tuesday, Apr 7, 20 @ 11:21 am:

    Let them do their job. I am assuming per the mayors order, officers aren’t trying to cite let alone arrest people…but they should and I’m assuming are using as a last resort.

  2. - Moody's Blues - Tuesday, Apr 7, 20 @ 11:29 am:

    If only the ACLU first had urged all citizens to stop selfishly putting others at risk and to abide by the governor’s and the mayor’s edicts. If all of us were doing so, there would be no need for this finger-wag at police officers who’ve been instructed to enforce those edicts.

  3. - revvedup - Tuesday, Apr 7, 20 @ 11:37 am:

    After all this time and ways to get the message out, enforcement is warranted. Citations can be issued without a court order. Arrests are the last result after citations issued and an order to disperse is given. Where possible you cite the leaders/organizers, rather than everybody on site. Time to stop pandering to the ACLU every time law enforcement has to act to enforce lawful orders.

  4. - Winderweezle - Tuesday, Apr 7, 20 @ 12:29 pm:

    In a desperate attempt to be relevant and with a heavy dose of whatifism, the American Civil Liberties Union complains about the most reasonable government intrusion I can imagine without one iota of factual basis it will occur.

    It does keep their narrative in front of the public at a time when people have time to read it.

  5. - Western burbs - Tuesday, Apr 7, 20 @ 12:57 pm:

    Police Departments have a difficult task here. Now the ACLU want officers to obtain a cease and desist order? And approval from a supervisor to make an arrest (often this will be a ticket)? It is far safer for their health and legal viewpoint for the officer to announce that people should move along and keep on driving their squad down the road.

  6. - Cubs in '16 - Tuesday, Apr 7, 20 @ 3:18 pm:

    I wouldn’t want the ACLU giving me “recommendations” about how to do my job. If they sincerely hope to partner with law enforcement to address the very real issues that exist; step one would be to cut out the condescending and demeaning tone.

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