Welcoming City amendment and STOP Act push for police accountability in Chicago

by David Lee, Community Journalism Intern

More than two years after a police officer was filmed hitting and shouting racially charged insults to a 32-year-old tanning salon manager, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago and city officials are working to make sure it never happens again.

An amendment to Chicago’s “Welcoming City” ordinance, which was enacted in 2012 to provide basic protections for undocumented Chicagoans, has been introduced to City Council. Authored by Advancing Justice | Chicago and Alderman Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward), the amendment prohibits city officials from threatening community members with deportation and provides additional avenues to accountability for police officers caught in violation.

“At a time when Sanctuary City policies are under attack, national anti-immigrant rhetoric is on the rise, and police misconduct permeates every jurisdiction in the country, something must be done to protect the residents of Chicago,” said Andy Kang, Legal Director for Advancing Justice | Chicago at a press conference on July 29.

Police actions against the salon manager, Jessica Klyzek, clearly undermine the original intent of the “Welcoming City” ordinance, to “make Chicago the most immigrant-friendly city in the country.”

Officers raided a Noble Square tanning salon in 2013 after an employee allegedly offered an undercover officer a sex act. Surveillance video of the incident shows a plainclothes officer physically and verbally assaulting the 5-foot-2, 110- pound Klyzek. At one point, the man threatens to, “put you in a UPS box and send you back to wherever the f*** you came from.”

The Asian American community was in uproar over the incident and Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago hosted a town hall meeting in June 2014 to address community concerns and provide inroads for future action. The amendment is one of several demands put forth from the meeting.

The actions stemming from the Klyzek case are just one part of the movement against police brutality.

Other measures were introduced to the City Council including the STOP Act, which stands for “Stop, Transparency, Oversight and Protection.” The act would require the CPD to collect data on all stops and frisks, including the location and reason of the stop, the perceived race and gender of the person stopped, and the badge numbers of the officers present.

Chicago Votes and We Charge Genocide introduced the ordinance at a press conference on July 29. Three Aldermen, along with Members of Chicago Votes gave impassioned speeches about how unnecessary frisks impact everyday life in many neighborhoods.

“What does someone who’s suspicious look like? Dark hair, dark eyes, dark skin?” asked Caleb Porter, a member of Chicago Votes, who is Black. “It looks like a lot of people in this room. Do I look suspicious?”

According to a study by the American Civil Liberties Union, “Once you are stopped, if an officer has reasonable suspicion that you are dangerous and have a weapon, the officer can frisk you … this experience is often invasive, humiliating and disturbing.”

Both the “Welcoming City” amendment and the STOP Act are attempts at the same outcome – accountable and fair police enforcement in Chicago, especially for communities of color. The similarities really became striking when Alderman Roderick Sawyer originally present for the STOP Act press conference, agreed to sign onto the Welcoming City amendment. Advancing Justice | Chicago also announced their support for the STOP Act on July 29.

David Lee is the Community Journalism Intern with Advancing Justice | Chicago. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidYLee95) or contact him by email.