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#544 Online: Are Traffic Stops the new Stop and Frisk in Chicago?


Pascal Sabino, Block Club

Chicago Police has vastly expanded the number of traffic stops in recent years, and this growth in police encounters has overwhelmingly focused on the city’s Black and Latino neighborhoods. While police officials have repeatedly denied any connection, the uptick in police encounters has coincided with an aggressive focus on illegal gun possession, as well as a shift away from the widespread use of controversial stop-and-frisk tactics.

A collaborative investigation by Block Club Chicago, Injustice Watch and DataMade uncovered that Chicago Police in reality stopped hundreds of thousands more drivers, who are overwhelmingly Black, than the department reports to state watchdogs tasked with addressing racial bias in policing. Data shows the traffic stop strategy is highly inefficient: at best, officers must stop over 150 drivers to make arrests for a nonviolent gun possession offense. Legal experts and advocates say the tactic requires police to violate the civil and constitutional rights of Black Chicagoans en masse with pretexual traffic stops to boost gun recovery statistics, even though it leads to no documented reduction in violent crime.

In this presentation, Block Club reporter Pascal Sabino will share how he used multiple data sources, legal documents and individual narratives to piece together the reasoning behind the dramatic tactical shift, and the impact it has had on Black and Latino Chicagoans.