There is a long history of disrespect, abuse and humiliation that marginalized communities have suffered at the hands of the Chicago Police Department that has created deep mistrust and fear. Many community members have described daily degradations where police officers treat law-abiding people like they are criminals, especially in predominantly Black and Hispanic communities. In the words of one community resident, “Police come into the community and see everyone as a criminal…. Police do things and get away with things in our community that they would never dare in other communities.”
Many community residents are disturbed by daily interactions with police officers who seem not to care about residents’ well-being, act in an abusive manner and use extremely demeaning language. These interactions are offensive and dehumanizing. As a result, many law-abiding residents in predominantly Black and Hispanic communities don’t just mistrust the police, they fear them. In communities of color, and particularly in the African American community, the police feel like “an occupation force,”, policing feels like a system of oppression that is like “modern day slavery.”
Police officers use aggressive tactics when they aren’t justified. To often police stop, frisk, handcuff and sometimes arrest people, chase on foot, and stop cars — all without cause. The police use vague laws against “disturbing the peace” and “disorderly conduct” to break up harmless behavior that should not be criminalized. This emphasis on aggressively stifling minor offenses puts young people and racial minorities – many of whom depend heavily on public space for socializing – at greatly increased risk of hostile encounters with police. Complaints about these tactics is most prevalent in marginalized communities of color throughout Chicago. Leading residents to conclude that racism is at the core of this abusive and humiliating behavior. Racial prejudice and rampant institutional racism in the Chicago Police Department must be acknowledged and addressed.
This overly-aggressive police behavior doesn’t just cause harm to its direct victims. It also makes it harder for the police to address real problems and solve crime. Many residents will not call or cooperate with the police because they fear any interaction with police could be harmful. And the harm can be toxic, corrosive and long-term. Aggressive policing makes people less safe. Police officers who are disrespectful, biased and violent have poisoned the communities in which they work and made it far less likely residents will work with any police officers to fight crime and keep peace.