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Appeals court reinstates ACLU suit over police deployment in Chicago

Updated: December 17, 2013 6:07AM

A state appellate court panel has reinstated a lawsuit that aims to force Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration to assign more police officers to black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and the Central Austin Neighborhood Association argued in the lawsuit filed in 2011 that the city doesn’t place enough officers in high-crime areas, saying the result is discriminatory.

Cook County Circuit Judge Neil Cohen threw out the case last year, calling it “well-intentioned and noble” but agreeing with the Emanuel administation that it’s not the role of the courts to tell City Hall how to allocate police officers. If people don’t like how the city assigns officers, Cohen said they should go to the polls and vote to “throw the bastards out.”

But a three-judge panel of the Illinois Appellate Court overturned Cohen, finding, in a unanimous ruling Wednesday, that the judge “should not have dismissed the complaint” and allowing the case to proceed.

Roderick Drew, a city law department spokesman, said, “We intend to vigorously litigate the case in the circuit court and are confident that the courts will not find discrimination based on race, color or national origin.”

Last December, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that retirements from the police department had largely eroded Emanuel’s additions of beat cops in high-crime areas. This year, the city has spent $93 million on overtime to increase the police presence in the most violent neighborhoods.

The number of permanently assigned beat cops, though, has fallen the most in areas with the highest crime rates, including Austin and Englewood, according to police data obtained by the ACLU.

The overall number of beat cops in Chicago was 6,394 in September, down from more than 7,000 two years before, the police records show.


Twitter: @dmihalopoulos

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