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Chicago Police Union Moves To Kill ACLU Suit

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CHICAGO (STMW) – The Fraternal Order of Police filed a legal motion Thursday with the ultimate goal of dismissing an ACLU lawsuit that accused the city of Chicago of depriving some inner-city neighborhoods of adequate police protection.

If a judge grants the union’s motion to intervene, the FOP plans to initially ask that the law firm of Sidley Austin LLP be disqualified from assisting the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and, ultimately, that the case be dismissed.

“It’s horrible public policy if a single chancery judge is allowed to determine how the police department operates in the field and how they’re made up,” FOP lawyer Paul Geiger said. “That’s madness. It would be unlike any other big city in the United States.”

FOP president Mike Shields said Sidley Austin has a conflict of interest because one of the firm’s partners is a member of the Chicago Police Board and the firm assisted Mayor Rahm Emanuel in reining in credit-card abuses.

“We’re concerned that a friendly lawsuit like this could have a devastating impact on public policy,” Shields said. “We can’t prove that anything is a setup” to force a beat realignment, without putting Emanuel on the political hot seat, “but there is a threat that it is…. If there’s gonna be a remapping of police beats, then it should be discussed among the community, the police and the aldermen.”

ACLU legal director Harvey Grossman said that the lawsuit he filed in October does not seek to empower a judge to “run the police department or deploy officers.”

Grossman said it aims to enforce laws that ”ensure that all municipal services be provided equitably” by compelling the city to come up with its own plan.

“We have, for almost three decades now, tolerated inequitable assignment of police officers —whether you measure it by response or lack of response to emergency service calls or the rate of serious violent crime,” Grossman said. “We’re not the first people to recognize that’s the case. Police superintendent after police superintendent have recognized the inequitable allocation and tried to change it and there’s been political resistance. When there’s a political impediment to ensuring fairness, it’s not uncommon for courts to step in and say, `Enough is enough.’ “

The ACLU lawsuit said Chicago is a city of haves and have-nots when it comes to police protection, with the number of backlogged 911 calls unevenly large in neighborhoods with the largest minority populations.

The suit pointed to a Chicago Sun-Times story last year about situations in which there are no resources to respond to 911 calls — known as “radio assignments pending.” Districts with the lowest number of RAPs were on the North Side and Northwest Side, where violent crime is the lowest, the Sun-Times found.

The city provided the 911 figures to the Sun-Times under a Freedom of Information Act request, but it denied a request for the RAP data — which the newspaper obtained from a source.

Grossman also pointed to a recent Chicago News Cooperative story that found that crime-ridden police districts have fewer officers patrolling their streets than much safer areas of the city — even after Emanuel redeployed more than 1,000 officers to patrol jobs from other assignments this year. The information was provided by an unidentified source, the story said.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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