by Todd Feurer, Samah Assad, Adam Harrington, Dave Savini, and Michele Youngerman.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Four months after recommending “urgent” changes to the Chicago Police Department’s search warrant policies, the city’s top watchdog issued a new report that found Black men were the targets of CPD search warrants far more often than anyone else from 2017 through 2020.READ MORE: Annette Nance-Holt Confirmed As Chicago's First Black Female Fire Commissioner
The latest report from the Office of the Inspector General also highlighted inconsistencies in how CPD determines if a raid was successful, and shortcomings in the tracking of key data such as names and addresses. The report comes as part of its review of CPD search warrant policies, launched as result of CBS 2’s years-long investigation into wrong raids.
The Inspector General’s office evaluated data on approximately 5,528 residential search warrants issued between the start of 2017 and the end of 2020, finding 73% of all warrants executed were seeking illegal drugs, and 24% were seeking guns, with some overlap of approximately 5% of warrants seeking both.
The report found nearly 72% of the targets of search warrants were Black men, who were targeted 4.6 times more often than Latinx men and 25.3 times more often than White men.
“With respect, then, to sort of the demographic profile, We found that certainly, people of color are much more likely to be the targets and subjects of search warrants,” Deborah Witzburg, Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety, told CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini.
Women were far less likely to be the targets of search warrants, with only 9.6% of all search warrants targeting women. Black women were targeted 6.4 times more often than Latinx women and 11 times more often than White women.
The neighborhoods with the most residential search warrants over those four years included largely Black and Brown communities in Humboldt Park (123 searches), West Englewood (180 searches), and North Lawndale (156 searches). Police beats with no residential search warrants executed in the four years examined included largely White areas in the Loop, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, and Norwood Park. CBS 2 previously found similar disparities in a data analysis of CPD search warrant locations last year.
“I will say that looking at the data here we did find that certainly that certain parts of the city are much more heavily represented in in search warrant executions than others,” Witzburg said. “So, you know, we found that certainly search warrants are concentrated on the South and West sides of Chicago. The beat with the police beat with the most residential search warrants with is in the 11th (Harrison) District, followed by beats in the Seventh District – Englewood.”
Savini noted that these findings are very similar to what the CBS 2 Investigators have found.
The report examined how CPD’s internal tracking system for search warrants – known as eTrack – keeps tabs on data such as the dates and locations warrants were issued, the reason for a raid, the target of the warrant, and the officers involved in the creation and execution of a warrant.
The inspector general’s office also found, while CPD has deemed 89% of the search warrants it executed over the four years examined were “gainful,” that does not necessarily mean that officers found what they were looking for during a raid.
“It is essentially reflective of how often property is recovered; this may indicate not only the recovery of the contraband or evidence that is identified in the warrant, but also the recovery of any other property, such as documents to establish proof of residency,” the report stated. “Additionally, this measure does not consider whether the raid resulted in the recovery of the evidence for which the warrant was obtained, and, therefore, may not directly reflect a high accuracy rate in the information used to obtain warrants.”
The OIG’s probe found 75.6% of drug warrants resulted in the actual recovery of drugs, and 40.6% of gun warrants resulted in the actual seizure of firearms. However, the report also found officers recovered drugs by chance 40% of the time and guns by chance 24.3% of the time when those items were not listed on a warrant.
The Inspector General’s office had the authority to dig into all of the Chicago Police Department’s data. They were able to access inventory records revealing a drug recovery rate that was different from drug recovery data CPD gave to CBS 2 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
Despite our questions to CPD about its drug recovery rate and data, the department failed to release similar records the IG was able to access.
While CPD does track information on whether evidence was recovered or arrests were made while executing a search warrant, the report found other key information is not tracked – including whether children were present during a raid, or whether the warrant was approved as a “no-knock” warrant.
“Proposed changes to CPD’s search warrant policies do not specify that such information be recorded in eTrack or elsewhere. Failing to track data on critical search warrant factors does and will continue to hinder CPD’s ability to evaluate the extent of the impact of its proposed policy changes,” the report states.
Two-thirds of the search warrants tracked by CPD were residential warrants, according to the report, but critical data is not always tracked, or not always entered the way it should be.
For example, nearly a quarter of the time when officers executed a search warrant at an apartment, the apartment number was not listed, indicating either incomplete address information on the warrant itself, or a mistake in entering the information into the tracking system.READ MORE: Red Cross Seeking Donations As Blood Shortage Worsens
In addition, the report found for all residential search warrants, information on the target of the warrant was not provided approximately 22% of the time.
“CPD reported to OIG that it is possible to have a search warrant for a residence without a subject, giving the example of a known drug house where the identities of involved individuals were unknown, though it is unclear if this accounts for all records missing subject information, or if data entry errors played a role in this missing information,” the report stated.
Overall, the use of search warrants has been declining since 2019, according to the report.
CPD executed a total of 2,352 residential and non-residential search warrants in 2019 – with 60 percent of those coming in the first six months of the year – but only 1,138 warrants in 2020.
“I think at bottom, the critical observation here with respect to the collection of data, is that there are some important limitations to the data that CPD has been collecting about its execution of search warrants,” Witzburg said, “and if, the department is to undertake the tracking of information that is required by the draft directive, its collection of data will need to expand.”
In dozens of cases that CBS 2 has uncovered officers repeatedly failed to do their own police work and relied solely on bad tips from confidential informants, and ultimately raided the wrong homes, such as in Anjanette Young’s case in February 2019. Young was handcuffed naked when officers broke into her home.
Two months ago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Supt. David Brown announced plans for sweeping changes to CPD’s search warrant policies.
For the first time, Chicago Police will begin tracking wrong raids that result from faulty information, such as the raid on Young’s home.
So-called “no-knock” warrants also will be banned “except in specific cases where lives or safety are in danger,” and must be approved by a bureau chief or higher, and will only be served by SWAT teams, rather than the officers who obtained the warrant.
All other search warrants will now have to be approved by a deputy chief or higher. That’s a huge move, because that’s three ranks above the previous requirement of a lieutenant approval.
During any raid, a female officer will now have to be present for the serving of all search warrants. A lieutenant or higher must be there to oversee the scene. And, in line with a previous policy, officers will also have to make note of any situation where they point a gun at any person.
All warrants also will require an independent investigation before approval and execution to corroborate the information used to obtain the warrant.
Before any search warrant is carried out, the team serving the warrant must conduct a planning session to “identify any potentially vulnerable people who may be present at the location in question, including children.”
CPD also will carry out a critical incident after-action review after any wrong raid — whether officers went to a location other than listed on the warrant, or if the information in the warrant itself was faulty. That review will include a requirement that CPD to report the facts of the wrong raid to the judge who authorized the warrant.
The department must create a log number for all wrong raids, including those in which search warrant is served at a wrong address or where the information used to obtain the warrant turns out to be false.
It’s the second time in as many years the Lightfoot administration is announcing an overhaul of search warrant procedures in an effort to put a stop to wrong raids. The changes include expanding the department’s efforts to track wrong raids.
The mayor announced her first search warrant and raid reforms in January 2020, but Savini has reported instances when officers did not follow the policy and bad raids continued to happen after that.
Last year’s change to the search warrant policy required the creation of a log if a raid is carried out at an address different than what is listed on the search warrant. But that doesn’t account for the dozens of wrong raids CBS 2 found, including the one on Young’s home.MORE NEWS: CTU: Layoffs Will Hit Hardest Schools On South, West Sides
That policy did not require a log when officers enter the address listed on the warrant, but learn the information used to obtain the warrant was faulty. That will change with the series of policy changes Lightfoot and Brown are announcing today. CPD now will be required to track all wrong raids, whether the result of officers carrying out a raid at the wrong address, or based on faulty information in a warrant.