Tribune story highlights discriminatory pattern of DUI roadblocks by Chicago Police

The Chicago Tribune has a story today by Angela Caputo, (sadly, behind its paywall) about how most of the Chicago Police’s DUI “sobriety checkpoints” a/k/a roadblocks are done in minority neighborhoods such as Austin or Wentworth, not in white areas like Jefferson Park (which is, not coincidentally, also a neighborhood where a lot of police officers live).

This is despite the fact that there are four times as many alcohol related crashes in Jefferson Park than there are in Austin.

Here are some highlights from the story:

Chicago’s Jefferson Park police district is drawn around a leafy residential area on the Northwest Side, home to about one-fifth of the city’s police officers and their families. The district, which is predominantly white, also has one of the highest rates of drunken driving accidents and fatalities, but police haven’t set up a sobriety checkpoint there in more than five years.

Seven miles due south, Chicago police have announced 10 roadside checks over the same period in the Austin district, a hardscrabble stretch along the city’s West Side that is predominantly black and where there were four times fewer alcohol-related crashes than in Jefferson Park.

A Tribune investigation found that in Chicago, 84 percent of the roadside checks were scheduled in areas populated mostly by minorities while roadways in areas with more DUI-related crashes that are predominantly white are checked less often, or not at all. Federal guidelines suggest, however, that when choosing where to set up checkpoints, agencies should use objective criteria, such as a high incidence of alcohol-related crashes.

Of Chicago’s 22 police districts, nine are majority-black, five white, four Latino and four have no racial majority. From February 2010 through June 2014, the most recent period with complete data available, Chicago police scheduled 152 roadside sobriety checks. Of those, 127 were in black or Latino police districts.

Only six roadside checks were in the majority-white police districts. That’s less than 4 percent of the DUI checkpoints conducted citywide, even though those districts included 25 percent of the city’s alcohol-related accidents from 2010 through 2012, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation’s most recent records.

Of the four police districts that had no scheduled sobriety checks at all, three were predominantly white; the fourth had no majority race. No police district that was predominantly black or Hispanic had fewer than five sobriety checks…

The Tribune found that nearly 270,000 citations were issued through roadside checks and special DUI patrols across Illinois during the state’s fiscal years 2008 to 2013, the most current span for which Illinois records are available. Of those citations, 93 percent were for relatively minor traffic infractions or nonmoving violations…

The stepped-up DUI patrols have generated, on average, 445 citations each month in Chicago over six years. For every drunken driver arrested, nearly 20 other citations were written.

The data shows no clear indication that a high number of checkpoints equates to few alcohol-related crashes. Some police districts with few checkpoints also had few crashes. Some districts with several checkpoints also had a high number of crashes.

The Jefferson Park district did not have a roadside check from February 2010 through March 12 of this year, Chicago police said. The Tribune found no record or announcement of a checkpoint since March 12. Yet Jefferson Park ranked third among Chicago police districts with 162 alcohol-related crashes and fatalities from 2010 to 2012, a Tribune analysis of state traffic accident data found.

The Chicago police districts with the most alcohol-related crashes were, in order, Chicago Lawn, Grand Central, Jefferson Park, Ogden and Town Hall. Grand Central, Chicago Lawn and Ogden are majority Latino districts that had 13, 11 and eight roadside checks scheduled. Town Hall is mostly white and had two checkpoints.

Twelve roadside checks were announced in the Harrison district, a predominantly African-American area. The West Side district had 91 alcohol-related crashes, roughly half as many as the Jefferson Park district.

On the South Side, the Wentworth district had 11 roadside checks, despite ranking near the bottom in the city for drunken-driving crashes.

“Of course Jefferson Park is primarily white. A lot of police officers live there and a lot of judges live there,” said Richard Kling, a law professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law…

In Illinois, police departments received $20 million worth of federal grants to combat drunken driving over six years, mostly to cover police overtime. IDOT disburses the grants to municipalities across the state to pay for roadside checks and other DUI patrols. Local officials decide how to deploy officers.

IDOT requires most departments to issue at least one ticket for every 60 minutes of patrol and arrest one drunken driver for every 10 hours of patrolling…

Chicago police collected $2.5 million in grants, which shakes out to an estimated average cost of $1,590 in federal money per DUI arrest.

It’s money well spent, advocates say.

The money was used for at least some enforcement during 13 roadside sobriety checkpoints in the Grand Crossing police district, a predominantly African-American area on the South Side. That makes Grand Crossing tied for No. 1 among police districts for DUI checkpoints.

Grand Crossing also ranks No. 1 in fewest drunken driving incidents in Chicago.

One thought on “Tribune story highlights discriminatory pattern of DUI roadblocks by Chicago Police

  1. Pingback: Expect DUI roadblocks this Fourth of July Weekend — and not just in the usual spots | illinoisduilawyer

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