Cook County Public Defender, Community Groups and Legal Aid Groups Reach Historic Consent Decree to End Chicago Police Practice of Incommunicado Detention
September 28, 2022 - In a historic step toward ending the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD’s) decades-long practice of holding people in incommunicado detention – without access to lawyers or family members – the Cook County Public Defender’s Office, along with a broad coalition of community groups, activists and legal aid groups, entered a Consent Decree with the City of Chicago, overseen by Judge Neil Cohen of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Under the Decree the Police Department will provide every arrestee or person in custody with access to communicate with an attorney, install telephones and signage in every interrogation room and create private and confidential rooms for arrestees to consult with an attorney. The Consent Decree will also ensure compliance with Illinois law requiring that people in custody be able to communicate with family members and legal representation in a timely manner and no longer than three hours after being placed in CPD custody.
“This is a hard-won and historic agreement that goes a long way to protect the rights of people who are detained by the police in the city of Chicago. Our region has a sad tradition of forced confessions and wrongful convictions, and the fight to overcome these abuses continues today. The Cook County Public Defender’s Office is committed to doing our part to help anyone who is detained exercise their constitutional right to remain silent and have access to counsel. Anyone who is in custody, or their loved ones, should call 844-817-4448 to reach our 24-hour Arrest Hotline and we will send an attorney to the police station to represent them free of charge,” said Cook County Public Defender Sharone R. Mitchell, Jr.
The Decree is the result of a lawsuit challenging the City’s practice of denying phone calls and legal representation to people held by police, drawn into stark relief by serial violations of state law during 2020 protests in response to the murder of George Floyd.
“This is a longstanding practice in the City of Chicago,” says Alexa Van Brunt, Director of the Illinois office of the MacArthur Justice Center and one of the Plaintiffs’ attorneys. “It has been starkly illustrated by CPD practices at the notorious Homan Square black site and by years of police torture in interrogation rooms under the regime of Jon Burge. CPD has coerced confessions from hundreds of people in custody, especially Black and Brown youth, contributing to Chicago’s legacy as the false confession capital of the nation.” Such police misconduct has cost taxpayers millions of dollars in legal settlements and jury verdicts.
“Since 2020, I've been healing spiritually and physically from my traumatic encounter with the Chicago Police Department in what is now being called ‘the battle for Hyde park.’ This moment is historic for so many reasons. But the most important one is that the journey to uplift and better our community is never ending. We have to take care of each other and truly put resources where they are needed most. I'm tired but I'm still going, this truly does mean a lot,” stated Isiah ThoughtPoet Veney.
CPD’s unlawful behavior became more widespread in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 citywide protests over police brutality and racism. During that time, the National Lawyers Guild Chicago, also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, was denied access to its clients in police stations. Each community group represented in the suit, including the #LetUsBreathe Collective, Black Lives Matter Chicago, STOP Chicago, Ujimaa Medics and GoodKids MadCity, has members who were detained and denied their right to make a phone call and contact their attorneys
Under the terms of the Consent Decree, the CPD must:
- Provide every arrestee or person in custody – regardless of whether or not they are charged with a criminal offense – the right to consult with an attorney, in private, by telephone or in person, within three hours of being placed in CPD custody,
- Install phones and display signs informing people of their rights with the Public Defender's free 24-hour Arrest Hotline in every interrogation room in the City, and
- Create private and confidential rooms in every single Chicago police station for people to call and meet with their lawyers, including in the detective divisions.
Detectives are prohibited from interrogating people in custody until they have received a requested phone call or attorney visit.
“Fifty-six years after the U.S. Supreme Court announced its famous decision, we are finally about to make Miranda real in Chicago,” said University of Chicago Law Professor and attorney, Craig Futterman. “We have not solved systemic police abuse and racism, but by ensuring that everyone held in the bowels of Chicago police stations has prompt access to an attorney, we will make it very difficult for CPD to coerce false confessions from desperate people. Someone will be watching.”
The Consent Decree gives the plaintiffs the ability to monitor and enforce the city’s compliance. The City of Chicago will provide the plaintiffs data on a monthly basis, allow plaintiffs’ counsel to visit and inspect CPD facilities to monitor the CPD’s compliance with the terms of the agreement, and enforce the agreement in court if compliance is not established.
Plaintiffs are represented by Craig Futterman of the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School, Alexa Van Brunt of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, and Daniel Massoglia of First Defense Legal Aid, Sheila A. Bedi of the Community Justice and Civil Rights Clinic at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, Joey L. Mogul of the People’s Law Office.
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Cook County Public Defender's Office