Closer Look

Campus Safety Stopped and Frisked Mostly Minorities and Mostly Innocent People in the Last Two Years

Alanna Demetrius | The Phoenix

The majority of people Loyola’s campus cops stopped, questioned and patted down in the last two years were minorities. And, in most cases, the pat downs were done on innocent people.

More than three quarters of the stop-and-frisks conducted by Loyola Campus Safety officers between 2016 and 2018 didn’t lead to an arrest, citation or verbal warning, recent numbers compiled by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) showed.

Stop-and-frisk is when police officers stop a pedestrian and temporarily detain them, subjecting them to questioning and patting down the outside of their clothes to see if they’re carrying a weapon.

Of the 80 pedestrian stop-and-frisks Loyola campus cops made between those two years, 53 of the pedestrians were black. Eighteen were white, eight were Hispanic and one was Asian, records obtained by The Phoenix from IDOT’s now yearly Pedestrian Stop Study show.

Yet more than 76 percent of the black pedestrians frisked, 75 percent of the Hispanic pedestrians frisked and 84 percent of the white pedestrians frisked were never charged with a crime or given a verbal warning.

Guy Emerson Mount, professor of African American history at Auburn University and University of Chicago graduate, said the numbers are troubling but reflective of the racial reality of the U.S.

“People in black communities would say [of those numbers] of course, that’s the way that it is,” Mount said. “I think most reasonable people would say that’s obviously not okay.”

Campus Safety refused to answer questions for this story.

“I have nothing for you,” university spokeswoman Sarah Howell said.

Campus Safety would be far from the first police department to conduct a large amount of unjustified stop-and-frisks. In the Chicago Police Department (CPD), officers’ pat downs bordered on harassment a few years ago, alleges American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois spokesman Ed Yohnka.

“[Stop-and-frisk] wasn’t a tactic that was being used across the city … This was a tactic that was being used in communities of color,” Yohnka said.

He’s referring to a study the ACLU of Illinois released in 2015 about CPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics. In it, the organization found stop-and-frisk was most often done on people not charged with crimes while disproportionately affecting minorities in Chicago. Some studies have also suggested stop-and-frisk isn’t an effective crime deterrent.

In the wake of the 2015 ACLU report, CPD pledged to increase transparency, oversight and training regarding performing police stop-and-frisks.

But the same can’t be said for university police departments, which operate with many of the same powers as CPD but with little public oversight.

Campus Safety’s jurisdiction isn’t limited to the Lake Shore and Water Tower campuses; its patrol bounds extend into parts of the Rogers Park and Edgewater neighborhoods that surround the Lake Shore Campus. Campus Safety isn’t subject to the same police transparency laws as CPD, even though they’re policing community residents as well as students.

Yohnka said this can be problematic, and that university police need to be part of the conversation on reforming policing.

“It does at times create a reality where [university police] can operate within this kind of netherworld where they’re even more unchecked.”

Loyola campus police stopped people for a number of reasons, according to the IDOT data. The reasons range from trespassing, “suspicious activity” or matching a suspect description to crimes like public urination, public intoxication or violation of open alcohol container laws.

Police are allowed to frisk when they have a reasonable belief a person is armed and dangerous. Reasons in the data include a suspicious bulge in a person’s pocket, evasive behavior, verbal threats, prior knowledge of the offender and violent actions.

One person was frisked because they allegedly refused to pay their CTA fare at the Loyola Red Line station. Campus Safety noted that frisk was conducted due to “officer safety.” That person was let go. Another was stopped and frisked because their car was in a tow zone, and they had a suspicious bulge.

One criminal justice professor at Loyola and the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Arthur Lurigio, said these frisks for non-violent crimes aren’t out of the ordinary, but rather are often part of the police’s strategy to nab criminals before they do something worse.

“What [police] found is the person who has the open bottle and drinking on the sidewalk is likely the person who’s going to get arrested for a burglary or an armed robbery,” Lurigio said.

That tactic is known as public order policing, or — more infamously — “Broken Window” policing. It’s a 1980s-era theory that says cracking down on minor misdemeanors and disorderly conduct will reduce violent crime overall, yet it’s never been definitively found to do that.

Alanna Demetrius | The Phoenix
Alanna Demetrius | The PhoenixLoyola Campus Safety officers received allegations of racially profiling students of color on campus following a February incident in which two students of color were detained by officers inside the Damen Student Center after a scuffle.

Yohnka said stop-and-frisk is a type of policing that goes beyond the realm of inconvenience.

“It’s a real harm that happens to people,” Yohnka said. “People are afraid of the police; it creates a further sense of mistrust and distrust and a chasm between the police and the community that they’re supposed to serve.”

Campus Safety came under fire for alleged racial profiling in February when officers were spotted frisking two black men who’d allegedly been scalping tickets to a Loyola basketball game inside the Damen Student Center. Nearby student protesters got involved — the incident ended with one student of color being detained by officers and another black male student being held in a Campus Safety squad car.

A student-led town hall in March — one of the many demonstrations to spill out of the February incident — featured several students and Loyola community members sharing stories of feeling racially profiled by Campus Safety.

Loyola’s annual diversity report, which breaks down the demographics of the university, showed for the 2017-18 academic year, African Americans made up around six percent of enrolled undergraduate students and around six percent of faculty. Mixed race undergraduate students made up 4.6 percent of the population, and mixed race faculty was 0.9 percent.

It’s unknown if any of the frisked people in the data were Loyola students.

State law mandates all Illinois law enforcement agencies collect and submit records of pedestrian stops as a way to spot potential racial bias until the law expires July 1, 2019. Loyola’s Campus Safety department has been part of the data the past two years — as well as University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and other Chicago-area university police forces.

The pedestrian record-keeping law is an expansion of a police traffic stop record-keeping law that began in 2004 after it was pioneered by former President Barack Obama when he was a state senator in Illinois.

The traffic stop law has been renewed every four years since, and the pedestrian stop portion was added in 2015 and is similar to a recommendation made in the 2015 ACLU report.

The state law requiring police to record stops only requires officers to note a pedestrian stop if it includes a detention in a public space — not on university property — defined as a “frisk, search, summons or arrest.”

Not every stop cops make includes a frisk; if someone is caught committing a crime, for instance, they’d be detained or arrested but not necessarily frisked.

The Phoenix didn’t include those in its count, just frisks by campus cops. The low ratio of discipline to stop-and-frisks, however, does differ from other area-university police departments.

For instance, UIC’s police force doled out an arrest, citation or verbal warning in nearly all of its stop-and-frisks between 2016 and 2018.

Loyola seemingly did better than University of Chicago’s police department, which in both years frisked black people more than 96 percent of the time, with a little over a fourth getting cited, warned or arrested.

Rogers Park, the neighborhood Loyola calls home, isn’t majority black. Recent census data showed the neighborhood is 42 percent white. Black people made up 27 percent of the neighborhood and Hispanic people made up 21 percent.

Campus Safety’s patrol boundaries extend beyond Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus.

Stop-and-frisk has been found unconstitutional by the U.S. Department of Justice in some cities, such as with the police departments of Los Angeles, Seattle and Newark, New Jersey. A lawsuit against the New York City Police Department led a judge to declare its stop-and-frisk policy unconstitutional as well. It hasn’t been challenged or declared unconstitutional in Chicago.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, has been interpreted to mean police can only stop somebody if they have reasonable suspicion the person is, was or is about to be, involved in committing a crime and is potentially armed and dangerous, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1968.

“Police are not supposed to search us unless we’re doing something wrong,” Yohnka said. “They’re not supposed to stop us unless we do something wrong.”


Terry v. Ohio (1968): Why police can stop and frisk you on the street

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures.
However, it was interpreted by the Supreme Court in 1968 to mean that police officers can stop you if they have a reasonable suspicion that you are, have been or are about to be involved in a crime.
The case stemmed out of a Cleveland police officer’s stop of John Terry, Carl Katz and Richard Chilton, men who the officer determined to be casing a storefront by walking back and forth in front of it.
A stop-and-frisk of the men led to the officer discovering a revolver inside Terry’s jacket. He was charged with concealed carry and served 3 years in prison.
Chilton was also found with a gun and served 13 months.
In an 8-1 decision, the court ruled cops can frisk you, without probable cause to arrest, only if they have a reasonable belief that you may be armed and dangerous.

 


Lurigio said while it’s healthy to be vigilant about police abusing their powers, we should also trust they’re using their instincts for good, especially if they’re being respectful in how they go about frisking individuals.

“[Police] are at the same time required to protect people’s constitutional rights, but … are also obliged to preserve public order and to protect public safety,” Lurigio said. “It’s not an easy calculus and there’s no perfect algorithm in doing that.”

But Mount said this policing problem is emblematic of larger institutional racism toward black Americans.

“Racial profiling is structural,” Mount said. “It’s hard baked into the history of this country.”

If you have a story of being stopped and frisked by Loyola Campus Safety, reach out to Closer Look.

Call us at 312.915.7240 or email mmcdevitt@luc.edu. 

 

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Closer Look Editor

Michael McDevitt is a senior journalism major from Quincy, Massachusetts and the Closer Look editor for The PHOENIX. He started out as a news writer for The PHOENIX in 2015, worked as an assistant news editor in 2016 and as news editor in 2017-18. When he's not editing stories, Michael's probably watching “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

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