Five months after its introduction, the City Council Public Safety Committee has held a hearing, though no vote, on the Anjanette Young Ordinance, backed by all three alderwomen who represent Kenwood, Hyde Park and Woodlawn. Their fourth co-sponsor says negotiations are ongoing with the mayor’s office to get it passed into law.
Rogers Park Ald. Maria Hadden (49th), a member of the Public Safety committee, said she and Alds. Sophia King (4th), Leslie Hairston (5th) and Jeanette Taylor (20th), introduced the ordinance to mandate that the Chicago Police Department use least-harmful and -invasive practices when warrants are served.
Hadden said this would be good for civilians, police and the city. The ordinance would limit police from pointing guns at children and their caregivers, and it requires police to report damage to property, release body camera footage within 48 hours and have a higher-ranking officer approve raids.
University of Chicago Law School Professor Craig Futterman and Stella Park, a student worker at the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic, 6020 S. University Ave., both lobbied for the bill.
“Chicago has a problem, and one that is well documented,” Park said. “(The Chicago Police Department) raids about 1,500 homes a year, that's more than four separate families every day, and nearly 3000 of the Chicago police raids between 2016 and 2019 failed to result in a single arrest, that's 43%. Meanwhile, innocent people are left humiliated and violated and less safe.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has revised the police department's search warrant policy, requiring that a deputy chief approve search warrant applications instead of a lieutenant and banning no-knock warrants except for when a bureau chief approves it when lives or safety are expressly in danger.
Park said the changes need to go further. Police need to give people 30 seconds, as dictated in the ordinance, to get to the door. As required in the ordinance, raids need to be done in daytime, so as not to execute raids on a person in bed while police arrive and break down his or her door.
“In order for the ban on no knocks and the requirement that officers announce their presence to have any weight, people inside the home must have a real meaningful opportunity to answer the door and comply with a lawful execution of the search warrant,” Park said. “As the whole nation saw with the killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, police bursting in at night to conduct a raid, while people are asleep, creates a very real risk that families, leaving intruders are going to break in, will attempt to defend themselves. It's a recipe for disaster, putting families and police officers at serious risk.”
Park said the ordinance provides accountability by providing civilians with justice, creating police-community justice and incentivizes officers to do due diligence. She pointed out that CPD raids are chiefly done in segregated neighborhoods where low-income people of color live and said the city has a responsibility and duty to prevent rights violations. Failure to do so, she observed, will prompt millions more in payouts.
“The Anjanette Young Ordinance will save lives,” Park said. “It will reduce harm. It will give City Council and the people the power to hold the department accountable and prevent ongoing civil rights violations, trauma, and tragedy.
Maira Khwaja with the Invisible Institute said investigative reporting done by the nonprofit, called "Beneath the Surface," published by the South Side Weekly, has found 50 complaints of home-invasion violence between 2011 and 2015. The documents, she said, show that home invasions and violations of the hands of police are not isolated mistakes but the regular outcomes of the search warrant system. (The Herald shares a publisher with the South Side Weekly.)
“Policies that currently exist are supposed to be stringent, but in practice, those policies haven't had much effect on the carte blanche approval that judges typically grant search warrant requests,” Khwaja said. “Traumatized civilians must be believed, or at least given the same deference as police officers. These documents routinely include testimony that officers damage property. Often the police are exonerated.”
Contrary to some of the alleged malfeasance the project uncovered, victims would no longer have to sign affidavits before misconduct investigations would begin.
But CPD Chief Brian McDermott said the department has already implemented most of the ordinance's aims, effective May 28. “Each search warrant requires an independent investigation to verify and corroborate information used to develop that warrant,” he observed. “Department supervisors must review the statutory and constitutional requirements and the legitimate law enforcement objective, and the independent investigation to verify and corroborate the search warrant.”
He acknowledged aldermanic concerns about accountability, particularly preventing the circumstance of a raid being executed on the wrong apartment again, as had happened to Young. Elderly people, disabled people, non-English language speakers and children are noted, if they are present, with interpreters providers, if necessary.
West Side Ald. Chris Taliaferro, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, did express concern that 30 seconds of warning might be enough for people to escape, destroy evidence or endanger public or officer safety; a former police officer himself, he said a half minute is enough time to arm oneself.
“I think determining that amount of time in between that only protects officer safety and what I believe to be the possibility of losing evidence or to prevent escape needs to be well-balanced," he said.
While the police representatives agreed with Taliaferro, Futterman said that 30 seconds is a "bare minimum" in order to protect people — not just the target, but anyone else present at a location — from disaster in the face of the raw shock of a police raid.
Reached after the meeting, Hadden said she was feeling "pretty positive" about the ordinance's chances. She observed that the July 27 meeting comes after the landmark Empowering Communities for Public Safety, or ECPS, civilian oversight ordinance of the CPD and a meeting with the deputy mayor for public safety, John P. O'Malley Jr., last month. Hadden said they all went over the ordinance, including comments from the city Law Department and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, or COPA.
"We do have several provisions in our ordinance that are covered in the policy that was finalized and put into action at the end of May, and what we chose to focus today are still some areas that aren't covered," Hadden said, adding that she believes there is both a path forward and room for compromise.
And with regards to the police testimony, Hadden wants to see what the data about raids shows, and she said that the law, not just policy, needs to change.
"They do need to track wrong raids," she said. "They didn't track that data in any consistent way. When we talk about what was presented to us today, they definitely leaned into the policy, 'Hey, you know what? We're going to make sure that there aren't kids present. We're going to check to know this.' But they don't go so far to say that they're not going to do raids if kids are present."
On July 29, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she was waiting for further engagement from the four co-sponsors on how the ordinance would improve her departmental police search warrant policy change before moving it forward.
"If you watched the testimony from the police department," Lightfoot said, "in comparing what this new, robust search warrant policy does — one that's been vetted by the monitor, the attorney general, put out for public comment multiple times — I think we've got a best-in-class search warrant general order."
Lightfoot said the Anjanette Young Ordinance has a number of challenges. and that it "doesn't seem to reflect the realities of police department policies."
"The thing I said to the sponsors is, no one ever talked to anybody that has expertise in policing before this was drafted. Nobody talked to anybody in the police department before it was drafted. They still haven't. They didn't take advantage of the opportunity to participate in the public comment. So I'm not sure the best way for us to move forward," she said.
Nevertheless, the mayor said her administration is ready to engage with the co-sponsors.
"The ball is in their court," she said. "I think we've got a great, very solid policy that's been vetted by policing experts and vetted by the independent monitor and is in effect.
"There's been a sea change in the city policy since February 2019, when the officers entered Anjanette Young's home. We've come a long, long way from there. I'm certainly willing to listen, but they've got to come with some concrete recommendations on how we can better improve the existing policy. And I'm waiting to hear that from them."