The Office of Inspector General Finds Race- and Ethnicity-Based Disparities Compound Across Multiple Phases of the Chicago Police Department’s Use-of-Force Incidents

The Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) Public Safety section conducted an evaluation of the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) use of force, which found strong evidence of race-based disparities in an analysis of stops and use-of-force incidents from October 17, 2017, through February 28, 2020. 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 data—Asian/Pacific Islanders and Native Americans/Alaskan Natives—appear in numbers too small to support strong conclusions about disparities in use of force.

In its evaluation, OIG analyzed CPD’s Tactical Response Report (TRR) data and other, complementary CPD-generated data to evaluate evidence of disparities across several phases of use-of-force encounters: (1) disparity in the likelihood of being stopped by the police, the initial phase for many use-of-force encounters; (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. OIG found evidence of disparities in some but not all of these separate analyses and further found that disparities disadvantaging Black people compounded across multiple phases of use-of-force incidents.

OIG’s evaluation reports four findings: (1) During the period of analysis, Black people were overwhelmingly disproportionately stopped by CPD, regardless of the demographic composition and crime level in the district of the stop; (2) Among those whom CPD members stopped, Black people were disproportionately subjected to force, regardless of district demographic composition and district crime level; (3) CPD was more likely to use higher-level force options against Black people than against non-Black people; and (4) 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.

Specifically, the data shows:

  • Given an investigatory stop, Black people were subjected to a search of their person 1.5 times more frequently than non-Black people, and also subjected to a pat-down 1.5 times more frequently than non-Black people.
  • Black motorists’ vehicles were searched in 0.95% of traffic stops, which made searches of Black motorists’ vehicles 3.3 times more frequent than searches of White motorists’ vehicles (0.29% of traffic stops of White motorists) and 1.6 times more frequent than searches of all non-Black motorists’ vehicles (0.60% of traffic stops of all non-Black motorists).
  • Black people were overrepresented—relative to their share of those stopped—in investigatory stops that lead to uses of force in 17 out of 22 CPD Districts (77%).
  • Across all CPD Districts, White people were either underrepresented or proportionally represented—relative to their share of police stops—in uses of force following those stops.
  • Thirteen percent (13%) of Black people who faced a use-of-force were subjected to a less-lethal weapon or a lethal weapon, whereas 9% of White people were subjected to a less-lethal weapon and none were subjected to lethal weapon force in the period of analysis.
  • For subjects who were reported to have used deadly force, Hispanic people had higher odds than non-Hispanic people of facing a higher-level force option in most cases.

While this report is primarily driven by quantitative analysis, OIG recognizes that quantitative data analysis cannot capture the complexity or situational uniqueness of individual use-of-force incidents. OIG’s report does not draw conclusions on whether the individual stops or uses-of-force under analysis were justified by law or consistent with CPD policy. OIG’s report also does not make a finding that the observed disparities are attributable to racial or ethnic bias by CPD members. To provide greater context to the quantitative data presented, the report includes an appendix of selected case studies with concrete details of selected use-of force incidents, including sequencing of events. These case studies are sourced from OIG reviews of TRR narratives and body-worn camera footage from selected incidents falling within the period of analysis.

OIG did not make recommendations to CPD in this report but did invite the Department to respond. CPD’s response described use-of-force-related trainings offered before, during, and after the period of analysis, as well as trainings planned for the future. CPD stated that, “since [OIG’s period of analysis], the Department has made great strides in Use of force and Procedural Justice training and has revised numerous policies including, but not limited to, the entire Use of force suite of orders. In fact, the Department has achieved preliminary compliance on the use of force paragraphs in the Consent Decree.” CPD also described its creation of the Force Review Division, “which reviews individual reports of force and makes recommendations for training opportunities, refers incidents for accountability review if necessary and reports out” on its work and findings.

“OIG’s data analysis presents evidence of race- and ethnicity-based disparities that exist within the Chicago Police Department’s use of force. While OIG does not offer recommendations, the data itself provides insights about where CPD might focus its efforts to reduce disparate outcomes in its application of force, raises questions about core areas of police strategy and practice that merit further consideration, and presents the public with a better understanding of the patterns of racial disparities in CPD’s stops and use of force,” said Interim Inspector General William Marback.

The full report can be found online at OIG’s website: bit.ly/CPDUseOfForce.

The TRR data that OIG analyzed in this report can be accessed publicly through OIG’s Information Portal.  Users can replicate analyses presented here, drawing on refreshed data and filtering with variables of interest. Readers can also use the data to explore patterns in CPD use of force while making use of reported data not analyzed in this report, including subject sex, subject age, and whether the CPD member reported the subject to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Follow @ChicagoOIG on Twitter and Facebook for the latest information on how OIG continues to fight waste, fraud, abuse, and inefficiency in Chicago government.

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The mission of the independent and non-partisan City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) is to promote economy, effectiveness, efficiency, and integrity by identifying corruption, waste, and mismanagement in City government. OIG is a watchdog for the taxpayers of the City and has jurisdiction to conduct investigations and audits into most aspects of City government. If you see corruption, fraud, or waste of any kind, we need to hear from you. For more information, visit our website at: www.igchicago.org.