Youth activists release report on police violence, prepare to testify at United Nations hearing

Local activists released a new report highlighting the treatment of minority youth by Chicago Police, Tuesday, Oct. 22, the National Day of Action Against Police Brutality.

Page May, lead author, shared the report findings at Hull House Tuesday, Oct. 22.  (The Gate.Sonya Eldridge)

Page May, lead author, shared the report findings at Hull House Tuesday, Oct. 22. (The Gate/Sonya Eldridge)

Dozens of young people and organizers attended the briefing at the historic Hull House, 800 S. Halsted.

In November, the report, entitled, “Police Violence Against Chicago’s Youth of Color” will be presented to the United Nation’s (UN) Committee Against Torture in Geneva, Switzerland by a delegation of youth organizers from We Charge Genocide, a Chicago-based, volunteer-run coalition seeking police accountability.

The report is a compilation of data, personal narratives and recommendations for UN action based on UN human rights policies known as the Convention Against Torture.

“What we’ve done with our report is we’ve started to gather testimonies to distill these themes and then we were able to find data and absolutely it of course supported what young people have been saying for a really long time in this city,” said Page May, the report’s lead author.  “We see that not only is harassment and abuse taking place, but it’s happening at really alarming rates.”

Some of the key report findings include:

  • From 2009 to 2013, although Black people comprised only 32 percent of Chicago’s overall population, 75 percent of police shooting victims were Black. Additionally, in the first six months of 2014, 23 of 27 people shot by the CPD were Black.
  • Between 2009 and 2011, 92 percent of Taser uses involved a Black or Latino target, including 49 youth under the age of 16 (with some as young as 8 years old).
  • Black youth accounted for 77 percent of arrests of youth in 2011 and 79 percent in 2012. Latino youth accounted for most other arrests, i.e., 18 percent of these arrests in 2011 and 17 percent in 2012.
  • A brutality complaint is 94 percent less likely to be sustained in Chicago than in the nation as a whole: only .48 percent of brutality complaints against the CPD are sustained (as opposed to 8 percent nationally).
  • Between 2002 and 2004, Chicago residents filed 10, 149 complaints of excessive force, illegal searches, racial abuse, and false arrests against the CPD. Only 124 of these 10,149 complaints were sustained (1.2 percent) and a mere 19 cases (0.18 percent) resulted in any meaningful penalty (a suspension of a week or more).

Since its founding this past summer, We Charge Genocide (WCG) organizers have been working to educate the public on police misconduct, including how to document claims of questionable treatment, said Monica Trinidad, WCG organizer.

“We know that there is this long tradition of documenting human rights violations, but as far as we know, this is the first youth-of-color-led one, which is really important,” May said.

But organizers say one of the key challenges in identifying the nature and frequency of police interaction with the public is the current data collection system used by CPD, known as contact cards.  This method was designed to collect information during any police-civilian interaction, but it does not require officers to state whether a person was stopped involuntarily and/or frisked, according to report authors.

“Here in Chicago, the way that we document encounters between police and civilians doesn’t allow us to actually figure out how much stop and frisk is happening.  [The Chicago Police Department] collects too much data, and not enough, and it makes it really hard for us to show that harassment is a problem, that stop and frisk is a problem, particularly for young people of color,” May said.

To view the full report and to learn more about We Charge Genocide, visit wechargegenocide.org