Are CPD Contact Cards Unconstitutional?

by  Assistant Editor

Many public housing residents from the Dearborn Homes on the South Side are upset at the Chicago Police Department because they are being forced to give out personal information about themselves and their guests’ lives.

They want to know if the police department’s current requirement that they provide the information to put on contact cards as a method of deterring crime is unconstitutional and an infringement of their civil rights.

Five months ago, police officers began collecting these ‘contact cards’ from the residents of Dearborn Homes as well as their guests, according to Carol Wallace, a long-time resident of the public housing complex.

Beginning in January this year, Wallace said police officers began stopping residents and demanding they give out information so the officers can fill out contact cards that list their name, age, address, telephone number, height, weight, color of their eyes and hair, and if they had any tattoos.

“I just don’t get it now. CPD is making us fill out contacts cards so they can keep tabs on us. I’m an American citizen,” Wallace declared during a phone interview that month. “We are living as if we are in a Third World country somewhere. We are being treated as if we are living in a concentration camp.

RJ talked to other residents at the Dearborn Homes during a five-month investigation of the issue. Many said they thought that the police harassment was just another way to push them out of their homes to make way for pricey condominiums.

In May, RJ received more calls from residents of the Dearborn Homes complaining about the CPD making them fill out contact cards.

“Im afraid to go outside these days. They are making our lives miserable,” proclaimed Samuel Lord, a longtime resident of the Dearborn Homes.

Eleanor Murray also called in that month. “Every time I go outside, the police stop me and make me fill out contact cards. I think they even had the nerve to ask me for my social security number,” she said.

While at the public housing site in early June, Joyce Smith, a disabled resident, told this reporter that she was also stopped by police officers, demanding that she too provide them with her social security number for the contact card.

RJ called Gail Singleton, the elected president of the resident council at the Dearborn Homes, to ask her what she thought about the police making residents and their guests fill out contact cards. She could not be reached by press time.

Dearborn Homes resident Carol Wallace talks to Operation PUSH members in late July about Chicago Police officers demands for background information on public housing residents. Photo by Beauty Turner

CPD’s Views on the Contact Cards
In early January, RJ first called police spokesperson Pat Camden and asked him if there was any truth to the allegations about police officers forcing Dearborn Homes residents to fill out contact cards every time they are stopped by an officer.

“Yes. That is true we are asking people that we stop who come into the Dearborn Homes to fill out contact cards,” Camden said during the phone interview that month.

Camden said the reason for asking the public housing residents to fill out the contact cards would be to assist CPD in solving crimes in that community.

If we received a call about a crime that has been committed in that area or nearby and someone described a suspect and we see that we have someone on the contact card that matches that description, we will investigate that person,” Camden said.

RJ also asked Camden if the police department was requiring people all over the city to fill out contact cards, including those living on the Gold Coast.

“Yes. All across the city and by the way, the officers fill them out, not the person,” he said.

RJ asked Camden to provide copies of the contact cards and data about how many contact cards had been filled out in other parts of Chicago. Camden did not provide this information by press time.

“Which way do you want us to go? We are damned if we don’t do anything to deter crime and damned if we do,” Camden added.

RJ spoke with Camden again on June 8 to find out if the police officers demanding the information for the contact cards were stationed at the Dearborn Homes.

“No. We are not stationed there. We do not have an office space there. We are there to serve and protect the residents, just like we are with the whole city,” he said in a phone interview.

Camden added that the requests by the police department for residents and their guests to provide their personal information to police officers at the Dearborn Homes has been happening “as long as I have been a police officer, for 37 years.”

Attorney Tamara Holder talks to Dearborn Homes resident Carol Wallace at Operation PUSH regarding the police department's questionable tactics of demanding personal histories from public housing residents for contact cards. Photo by Beauty Turner

CHA Comments on the Issue
RJ spoke to Derek Hill, a Chicago Housing Authority spokesperson,in January to inquire if the agency knew about the police department’s initiative of making the Dearborn Homes residents and their guests fill out contact cards.

RJ also asked Hill if the situation was OK with the public housing agency, which currently pays the police department $16 million annually for “above baseline police services” for the duration of their massive $1.6 billion Plan for Transformation.

“The Chicago Housing Authority pays the Chicago Police Department money to patrol our properties,” Hill said.

“And if that is what the Chicago Police Department felt that they needed to do to keep our residents safe, then they should do that.”

Legal Aspects
Dearborn Homes resident Carol Wallace called RJ again in May about the contact cards. She wanted to know if the police officers’ demands for information were legal.

“Where are our policy makers? Our so-called leaders? Why aren’t they addressing these issues that are affecting so many low-income Black people?” she asked.

“Didn’t Hitler do that to the Jews? Make them show them their papers and fill out contact cards on them,” said an unidentified neighbor of Wallace’s again during a telephone interview in April.

RJ called American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Adam Schwarz to inquire if it is an infringement of the Dearborn Homes residents’ rights for police officers to ask them for information to fill out contact cards.

“There is a policy in the city called ‘Terry Stops’ but that is only if a person looks suspicious and you have reason to believe that that person may have done something. But that is not a reason to search or get contact cards filled out for everybody you come into contact with,” Schwarz said.

“The fact that you are entering a home or exiting doesn’t give rise to suspicious activities and should not be the basis of detaining or interrogating anyone.”

Robert D. Whitfield, a co-counsel for the Central Advisory Council, the body of elected CHA resident representatives, also questioned the legality of asking for information from residents in this way.

“Yes. It is highly questionable and yes, it is illegal if they are stopping every single person no matter what,” Whitfield said during an interview at a CHA Board of Commissioners meeting at the >Charles Hayes Center in mid-May.

3rd Ward Alderman’s Response
The news of the police asking the Dearborn Homes residents to provide them with background information about themselves for the contact cards didn’t sit too well with newly elected 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell.

“No. They shouldn’t be doing that to low-income people,” Dowell said on June 7.

“We don’t live in South Africa. That’s not right. I will definitely be looking into this.”
Beauty Turner

Many public housing residents from the Dearborn Homes on the South Side are upset at the Chicago Police Department because they are being forced to give out personal information about themselves and their guests’ lives.

They want to know if the police department’s current requirement that they provide the information to put on contact cards as a method of deterring crime is unconstitutional and an infringement of their civil rights.

Five months ago, police officers began collecting these ‘contact cards’ from the residents of Dearborn Homes as well as their guests, according to Carol Wallace, a long-time resident of the public housing complex.

Beginning in January this year, Wallace said police officers began stopping residents and demanding they give out information so the officers can fill out contact cards that list their name, age, address, telephone number, height, weight, color of their eyes and hair, and if they had any tattoos.

“I just don’t get it now. CPD is making us fill out contacts cards so they can keep tabs on us. I’m an American citizen,” Wallace declared during a phone interview that month. “We are living as if we are in a Third World country somewhere. We are being treated as if we are living in a concentration camp.

RJ talked to other residents at the Dearborn Homes during a five-month investigation of the issue. Many said they thought that the police harassment was just another way to push them out of their homes to make way for pricey condominiums.

In May, RJ received more calls from residents of the Dearborn Homes complaining about the CPD making them fill out contact cards.

“Im afraid to go outside these days. They are making our lives miserable,” proclaimed Samuel Lord, a longtime resident of the Dearborn Homes.

Eleanor Murray also called in that month. “Every time I go outside, the police stop me and make me fill out contact cards. I think they even had the nerve to ask me for my social security number,” she said.

While at the public housing site in early June, Joyce Smith, a disabled resident, told this reporter that she was also stopped by police officers, demanding that she too provide them with her social security number for the contact card.

RJ called Gail Singleton, the elected president of the resident council at the Dearborn Homes, to ask her what she thought about the police making residents and their guests fill out contact cards. She could not be reached by press time.

CPD’s Views on the Contact Cards
In early January, RJ first called police spokesperson Pat Camden and asked him if there was any truth to the allegations about police officers forcing Dearborn Homes residents to fill out contact cards every time they are stopped by an officer.

“Yes. That is true we are asking people that we stop who come into the Dearborn Homes to fill out contact cards,” Camden said during the phone interview that month.

Camden said the reason for asking the public housing residents to fill out the contact cards would be to assist CPD in solving crimes in that community.

If we received a call about a crime that has been committed in that area or nearby and someone described a suspect and we see that we have someone on the contact card that matches that description, we will investigate that person,” Camden said.

RJ also asked Camden if the police department was requiring people all over the city to fill out contact cards, including those living on the Gold Coast.

“Yes. All across the city and by the way, the officers fill them out, not the person,” he said.

RJ asked Camden to provide copies of the contact cards and data about how many contact cards had been filled out in other parts of Chicago. Camden did not provide this information by press time.

“Which way do you want us to go? We are damned if we don’t do anything to deter crime and damned if we do,” Camden added.

RJ spoke with Camden again on June 8 to find out if the police officers demanding the information for the contact cards were stationed at the Dearborn Homes.

“No. We are not stationed there. We do not have an office space there. We are there to serve and protect the residents, just like we are with the whole city,” he said in a phone interview.

Camden added that the requests by the police department for residents and their guests to provide their personal information to police officers at the Dearborn Homes has been happening “as long as I have been a police officer, for 37 years.”

CHA Comments on the Issue
RJ spoke to Derek Hill, a Chicago Housing Authority spokesperson,in January to inquire if the agency knew about the police department’s initiative of making the Dearborn Homes residents and their guests fill out contact cards.

RJ also asked Hill if the situation was OK with the public housing agency, which currently pays the police department $16 million annually for “above baseline police services” for the duration of their massive $1.6 billion Plan for Transformation.

“The Chicago Housing Authority pays the Chicago Police Department money to patrol our properties,” Hill said.

“And if that is what the Chicago Police Department felt that they needed to do to keep our residents safe, then they should do that.”

Legal Aspects
Dearborn Homes resident Carol Wallace called RJ again in May about the contact cards. She wanted to know if the police officers’ demands for information were legal.

“Where are our policy makers? Our so-called leaders? Why aren’t they addressing these issues that are affecting so many low-income Black people?” she asked.

“Didn’t Hitler do that to the Jews? Make them show them their papers and fill out contact cards on them,” said an unidentified neighbor of Wallace’s again during a telephone interview in April.

RJ called American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Adam Schwarz to inquire if it is an infringement of the Dearborn Homes residents’ rights for police officers to ask them for information to fill out contact cards.

“There is a policy in the city called ‘Terry Stops’ but that is only if a person looks suspicious and you have reason to believe that that person may have done something. But that is not a reason to search or get contact cards filled out for everybody you come into contact with,” Schwarz said.

“The fact that you are entering a home or exiting doesn’t give rise to suspicious activities and should not be the basis of detaining or interrogating anyone.”

Robert D. Whitfield, a co-counsel for the Central Advisory Council, the body of elected CHA resident representatives, also questioned the legality of asking for information from residents in this way.

“Yes. It is highly questionable and yes, it is illegal if they are stopping every single person no matter what,” Whitfield said during an interview at a CHA Board of Commissioners meeting at the >Charles Hayes Center in mid-May.

3rd Ward Alderman’s Response
The news of the police asking the Dearborn Homes residents to provide them with background information about themselves for the contact cards didn’t sit too well with newly elected 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell.

“No. They shouldn’t be doing that to low-income people,” Dowell said on June 7.

“We don’t live in South Africa. That’s not right. I will definitely be looking into this.”

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