Dismantling Myths Surrounding Chicago Police Stops in Independent Monitor’s Report
The Independent Monitor's Consultant Report is riddled with errors
In July, Chicago Contrarian covered how the Independent Monitor overseeing implementation of the consent decree for the Chicago Police Department (CPD) published a Consultant Report analyzing CPD stops for the period 2018-'20.
In the progress report, the court-appointed Independent Monitor, Maggie Hickey, and her team of consultants drew conclusions that were not supported by the data. This was done generally by providing simple summations of the raw data. Now it is time to consider how several specific conclusions made in the Consultant Report are at best misleading, and at worst outright fictions.
As discussed in the previous essay, the key error committed by Hickey’s statistical expert, David Abrams, is his insistence that the race ratio for investigatory stops should match the overall population. That is, Abrams consistently, and unreasonably, expects police stops to match the ratios of Chicago’s population. An absurd expectation on the part of Ms. Hickey’s team, CPD does not randomly stop residents.
For example: In a passage in the Consultant Report found on page 24, Abrams determined:
“During 2018 and2019, the primary period examined, black and Latino people were stopped at far higher rates than White people. The citywide average chance of being stopped in a year was 1 in 8 for Black people, 1 in 25 for Latino people, and 1 in 73 for White people.”
Whether it is deliberate or not, what Mr. Abrams fails to mention is that black residents are far more likely to be the victim of crime, particularly violent crime, in Chicago. Furthermore, according to statistics and crime data compiled by the FBI, the vast majority of crime is committed intra-race. This is to say most white perpetrators attack white victims, and most black perpetrators attack black victims. Evidence also collected by the FBI demonstrates a similar pattern across other demographic groups.
Logic follows that if CPD responds to a call, officers arrive at the scene, and if a black person is the victim of a crime — out of proportion to their population — the expectation would then be that officers unproportionately stop black people.
Of course, Hickey and Abrams are both acutely aware of this; nonetheless, they have cherry picked data in order to reinforce their selective outrage. It is worth mentioning the Consultant Report’s obsession with race. The term “race” appears an astounding 221 times in their account, yet “gender” and “age” each appear a mere three times. “Male” appears five times, “Female” just twice. Yet in 2018, 85.62 percent of people stopped by CPD were men. A lopsided figure, neither Hickey nor Abrams appear to express the slightest concern or protest the fact men are stopped out of proportion to their share of the population.
Similarly, people thought to be aged 16 to 25 represent 38.74 percent of all stops in 2018. A 10-year-age span, compare that to those over the age of 40, who only accounted for 25.92 percent of CPD stops or those 15 and younger, who make up only 5.62 percent. Despite evidence showing disparities elsewhere and against a broad demographic, Hickey’s study avoids highlighting and never expresses any objection to Chicago residents in their late teens and early 20s stopped by police more frequently than their ratio of the population.
Hickey and Abrams are simply being intellectually dishonest when they write the chance of being stopped is “1 in 8 for black people.” While it is easy to see how Hickey and her monitoring team came to their conclusions, there are approximately 790,000 black residents living in Chicago. Of those, a total of 91,500 were stopped by Chicago Police. This amounts to roughly one in eight. Although unlikely, it is possible that Ms. Hickey is simply incapable of understanding why the determinations in the Consultant Report are incorrect. However, a professor from the Wharton School, who holds himself out as a statistical expert, certainly knows better.
If the Independent Monitor’s report was true and accurate, it would mean that every eight years every single black person in the city will have been stopped by CPD. This does not just mean every black teenager. On the contrary, if we follow Ms. Hickey’s logic, it would mean every black infant and 80-year-old would be stopped by CPD. If the numbers from 2018 were repeated over any eight-year stretch, every black lawyer, doctor, banker, entrepreneur, mayor, alderman, and judge will have been had an encounter with Chicago police officers.
The absurdity of this can be demonstrated statistically. For instance, there are 20 members of the Black Caucus in the City Council. If we wanted to know the probability of CPD stopping one of these black aldermen it could be expressed as: (20c1)/(790,000c91,500). If CPD was stopping people randomly and wanted to stop 91,500 black people in a given year, the odds of stopping a member of the Black Caucus are 90 percent. Over a two-year period, the odds increase to 99 percent.
If the pool is extended to include the mayor, the former mayor, black judges, or perhaps the family of several aldermen, the situation is even more telling. If, for example, Chicago held a competitive event in which all 100 contestants were black. Under the methods Ms. Hickey and her monitoring team have applied to conclude racism is an integral part of policing strategy in Chicago, the probability of CPD stopping someone on this list in a given year would be (100c1)/(790,000c91,500). This is a remarkable 99.999 percent chance of being stopped.
None of this, of course, has occurred and would never happen. Nevertheless, all of this goes to demonstrate that CPD does not engage in random stops of Chicago citizens based on race. Conversely, police officers in Chicago are in fact continuously encountering and stopping many of the same individuals. In Chicago, like in all large urban areas across the country, five percent of the people (of all ages and races) are responsible for 90 percent of crime. In view of the fact CPD is in fact stopping the same individuals frequently, the claim of “1 in 8” is false and should be rejected out of hand.
In another excerpt found on page five of the Consultant Report, Hickey’s monitoring team takes another stab at claiming discriminatory policing in Chicago.
“Citywide, in 2018 and 2019, a black person was nine times as likely to be stopped as a white person, and a Latino person was about three times as likely to be stopped as a white person.”
This declaration is based on the “1 in 8” for blacks and the assertion that the rate is “1 in 72” for whites. Without knowing the number of instances in which the same people, of any race, were stopped, these rates are merely speculation. As such, this claim is sheer fabrication.
Lastly, it is also important to interpret and clarify another passage found on page six.
“In 2018 and 2019, Chicago police pat downs of black and Latino people resulted in lower “hit rates” (the rates of contraband discovery) than pat downs of white people. Chicago Police found contraband around 29 percent more often when they patted down a white person as compared to a black person.”
The language here appears simple enough, but it too is deeply misleading. If the pat-down “hit rate” for blacks was 7.6 percent and CPD found contraband 29 percent more often when they patted down whites, then whites should have a “hit rate” of around 36.6 percent. Easy, but this is not what it means.
Perhaps Ms. Hickey just does not know better when compiling a report on such a delicate matter, but her statistical expert should. The reality is a “29 percent increase in the rate of the rate.” Therefore, if the hit rate for blacks was 7.6 percent, the hit rate for whites was actually 7.6 percent + (7.6 percent x 29 percent) or 9.8 percent. This is quite different than “29 percent more often.”
While it is true that the more accurate language is a little cumbersome, maybe Ms. Hickey could make the effort when submitting evidence to a federal judge.