Taliaferro and mayor

West Side Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) speaks at Mayor Lori Lightfoot looks on, Dec. 21

The mayor again said on Monday that she wants to compromise with Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) on her phone-calls-for-arrestees ordinance, a suggestion Hairston, backed by legal experts, curtly shot down.

"We want to work with Ald. Hairston absolutely understand the issue in its entirely and as you may recall as part of the Police Accountability Taskforce report, we embraced a recommendation from a number of different civil rights lawyers which would make sure that information in every interrogation room has information about free lawyers that an arrestee can have access to, give them phones and so forth," Lightfoot said.

"The proposal that we had, which is to provide three hours, is consistent with national standards, consistent with LA. There are a number of large police departments that have no standard whatsoever. So I'm confident that in working with Ald. Hairston we'll be able to reach an appropriate resolution."

There is no nationwide standard for arrestees' phone calls as a civil right. Some states, like California, set a time limit of three hours. But state law in Illinois says that people who are arrested should "generally" be allowed a phone call within an hour. (Massachusetts and Tennessee also explicitly refer to a one-hour standard in their own codes.) 

After the press conference, Hairston reiterated to the Herald that she is not open to compromise.

"My position has not changed," she said over text. "Done."

As he had argued in his Dec. 15 interview with the Herald, Taliaferro said a one-hour requirement to give arrestees a phone call would be very difficult to meet, given the sequential need to search the arrestee, file reports, inventory goods, do the lockup procedure and wait for an interview room to open, which can take a long time.

"I explained my experience as a police officer for over 23 years: even under normal circumstances, not including a very busy summer night or multiple units in on an arrest, it's very difficult to process an arrest and book an arrestee within a one-hour timeframe. So we would be essentially subjecting the city to a lot of liability. 

"However, I did say given the current arrest procedures that are used by CPD, unless those procedures are changed, then one hour would not be reasonable."

Two law professors — Craig Futterman of the University of Chicago Law School, who argued for Hairston's ordinance before the Public Safety Committee, and Jamelle C. Sharpe of the University of Illinois College of Law in Champaign — have both stressed to the Herald that the state's administrative code requires arrestees in Chicago to be given a phone call within one hour outside of extraordinary circumstances.

Regarding liability, Sharpe said that Taliaferro was likely correct, but he said any expansion of rights opens a jurisdiction to more liability and said the question is whether state law, properly applied, requires the CPD to expand its protection to arrestees.

Both the mayor's and Hairston's ordinances have a documentation requirement in the case of arrestees not being given their phone call within the set timeframe. The mayor's has reasons listed as a checklist, while Hairston's has space for police to explain why arrestees were not given their phone call within an hour.

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