Report on Race- and Ethnicity-Based Disparities in the Chicago Police Department’s Use of Force

The Public Safety section of the City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted an evaluation of race- and ethnicity-based disparities in the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) use of force. With a few exceptions delineated in policy, CPD members are required to document all takedowns, manual strikes, uses of less-lethal weapons, and uses of lethal force on a Tactical Response Report (TRR). The TRR collects a wide range of officer-reported information about use-of-force incidents, including: demographic information about the officer and the subject; the time and location of the incident; the “type of activity” that led to the incident, such as an investigatory stop, traffic stop, mental health related incident, or pursuit or arrest of a subject; information about the subject’s actions; and information about efforts the CPD member took to limit the need for use of force (“force mitigation efforts”), such as giving verbal direction, strategic positioning, and the use of “time as a tactic.”

OIG analyzed CPD’s TRR data and other, complementary CPD-generated data from October 17, 2017, through February 28, 2020. The objective of this evaluation was to assess whether there was any evidence of race- or ethnicity-based disparities in use-of-force encounters in this period. OIG construed this objective broadly and used the available data to evaluate evidence of disparities across several phases of use-of-force encounters: (1) disparity in the likelihood of being stopped; (2) disparity in the likelihood of facing a use of force after having been stopped; (3) disparity in the level of force deployed in use-of-force encounters; (4) disparity in the number of uses of force deployed in use-of-force encounters; and (5) disparity in the number of force mitigation efforts deployed in use-of-force encounters. The findings report on each of these analyses separately, and the background to the report provides an overview of the data limitations associated with each analysis.

OIG found evidence of disparities in some but not all of its separate analyses. Where disparities were identified, they consistently disadvantaged Black people and consistently advantaged White people. The results were mixed for Hispanic people, and the other racial/ethnic groups represented in CPD’s TRR data—Asian/Pacific Islanders and Native Americans/Alaskan Natives—appear in the data in numbers too small to support strong conclusions about disparities in use of force.

The disparities disadvantaging Black people were most pronounced and supported by the strongest evidence with respect to the earliest phases of a use of force interaction: who gets stopped by the police and who gets subjected to a use of force of any type. OIG found that Black people were far more likely to be stopped by the police than non-Black people in investigatory stops and traffic stops. This result was consistent across CPD Districts, and the disparity cannot be explained entirely by different patterns of officer behavior in the Districts that CPD defines as “high crime” Districts (i.e., CPD’s “Tier 1” Districts). Separately, OIG found that, once stopped in an investigatory stop or traffic stop, Black people were more likely than non-Black people to face use of force. This result was also consistent across CPD Districts.

OIG separately analyzed TRR data for evidence of race- or ethnicity-based disparities in the level of force CPD members apply to a subject in use-of-force encounters. Again, OIG found evidence of disparities disadvantaging Black people. OIG used TRR reporting of subject action and officer force level used to compare the levels of force deployed against people of different racial and ethnic groups who engaged in similar actions. This analysis showed that, while CPD was more likely to use lower levels of force against all people, Black people generally had higher odds of facing higher-level force options than non-Black people across levels of subject resistance. Among subjects who were reported to have used deadly force, Hispanic people were more likely to face a higher-level force option than non-Hispanic people. Meanwhile, White people were almost never more likely to face a higher-level use of force than non-White people.

OIG found no evidence of race- or ethnicity-based disparities in force mitigation efforts as reported by officers, nor did OIG find evidence of race- or ethnicity-based disparities in the frequency of application of multiple uses of force against individual subjects in a single incident.