Illinois Traffic Stops

Citations & Additional Info

A 2014 study, "Pulled Over," by Charles Epp, et al, examined the practice of using traffic stops to investigate crimes unrelated to traffic safety.Charles R. Epp, Steven Maynard-Moody & Donald Haider-Markel, Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship (University of Chicago Press 2014). After interviewing officers, the researchers defined stops as "traffic safety enforcement" if they were justified by speeding 7 or more miles over the speed limit, reckless driving, or DUI checkpoints. The authors found that Black drivers were no more likely to be stopped than White drivers when it came to traffic safety enforcement stops. “Investigatory” stops were based on the failure to signal a turn or lane change, a malfunctioning light, driving too slowly, stopping too long, expired license tag, and to check for a valid driver's license or conduct a warrant check. Through interviews the authors found that Black drivers were more likely to be pulled over for investigatory stops and were more likely to have their cars and bodies searched during the stops. Black drivers subjected to these stops were then more distrustful of police and less likely to call them for help than White drivers.

There are indications that some departments around the state are engaged in investigatory stops targeted at Black and Latinx drivers. For example, in 2013, the Illinois State Police trained their officers that "Criminal/Terroristic offenders are most vulnerable while 'IN-TRANSIT'" and that officers should "engage" through "High Volume Citizen Contacts." The goal of the training was to provide officers with "[a]n understanding of the concept regarding effective patrol techniques to include high volumes of traffic stops for ALL violations of the Illinois Vehicle Code."Illinois State Police training (2013) at slide 43. Slides available here. These instructions were followed by diagrams showing drugs flowing from Mexico and Central and South America, seeming to suggest that officers should conduct stops of Latinx drivers.

Likewise, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that, at a Chicago Police Department management meeting to address crime trends, "officers were told to go out and make a lot of car stops because vehicles are involved in shootings. There was no discussion about, or apparent consideration of, whether such a tactic was an effective use of police resources to identify possible shooters, or of the negative impact it could have on police-community relations."U.S. Department of Justice, Investigation of the Chicago Police Department, Jan. 13, 2017 at 142-143, available here. In other words, Chicago police officers were directed to make traffic stops as a way to investigate non-traffic-related crimes.

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