Fate of police deployment, 911 responsiveness lawsuit uncertain

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It’s not clear what will become of the Central Austin Neighborhood Association and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois‘ lawsuit that calls on city officials to deploy police more equally across the city.

A Cook County judge heard oral arguments July 28 in the case, which the city of Chicago hopes will be dismissed, according to an ACLU spokesman.

It’s up to Associate Judge Neil H. Cohen whether the suit will move forward.

Ed Yhonka, spokesman for the ACLU of Illinois, said the judge did not give a specific date when he’d make that decision.

In October 2011, the ACLU of Illinois and the Central Austin Neighborhood Association filed a lawsuit after media coverage – including stories from in the Chicago TribuneChicago News Cooperative and the Chicago Sun-Times – about police deployment and 911-call responsiveness in the city’s neighborhoods.

The articles found the number of police officers deployed to specific areas of the city is not based on the rate of violent crime or the number of emergency calls or delays in responding to those calls. As a result, minority communities have lower numbers of officers than white communities, according to the reports.

The ACLU says the unequal deployment of officers in the city violates the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003, which makes it unlawful for government to provide services in a manner that has a disparate negative effect on any racial group.

The suit also claims 911 calls are more likely to go without a response in minority neighborhoods compared to white neighborhoods.

“We continue to be concerned about this issue, and we think folks like CANA – who are concerned citizens trying to do the right things for their community – ought to have police presence that we demand in other parts of the city,” Yhonka said.

In response to the suit, the city of Chicago filed a motion to dismiss the case.

Seretha Reid of the Central Austin Neighborhood Association said the judge seemed “well-informed on the issue,” citing various news articles on the subject, at last month’s hearing.

But she said she’s not sure how or when he will rule.

“We have no idea,” she said.

Reid and her husband started the association after they said police failed to respond to a 911 call the couple made about a fight outside their Austin home. (AustinTalks ran a story from the Austin Weekly News in December 2010 about the start of the Central Austin Neighborhood Association.)

If the judge does not throw out the case, the next step, said Yhonka, would be a discovery process to gather evidence, such as how the city measures and deals with 911 response times, with an eventual trial or settlement.

For more on the lawsuit, check out this AustinTalks article.


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