Chicago Judge Rejects Return to Days of "Red Squad"

Affiliate: ACLU of Illinois
March 11, 1999 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Illinois
Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

CHICAGO, IL — The Daley administration has suffered a major setback in its high-profile effort to roll back court restrictions placed on the Chicago Police Department because of the notorious “Red Squad”, the Sun-Times reported today.

In a 28-page opinion, U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward A. Bobrick rejected nearly every argument raised by the city in its effort to amend a federal consent decree regulating police investigations of free-speech activities, the Times said.

Before police activities were regulated by the decree, the Red Squad, founded in the 1930s, compiled files on a wide range of groups. The decree prohibits the gathering of information protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution unless it cannot be avoided in the face of a criminal investigation.

Mayor Daley has argued repeatedly that legitimate law enforcement efforts are hampered by the 1982 decree.

But the Sun-Times reported that Bobrick’s opinion sees nothing in the decree “that would hobble or place `blinders’ on legitimate police activities or trifle with public safety.” On that basis, and on numerous other points, he said U.S. District Judge Ann Williams, who has final word on the case, should reject the city’s request.

Bobrick has “looked at the evidence and concluded that the mayor’s claim that this consent decree interferes with legitimate law enforcement is totally baseless,” Richard Gutman, a New Jersey lawyer who is lead attorney for the Alliance to End Repression told the Times. The Alliance, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, filed the original lawsuits in the 1970s that led to the decree.

“We would urge the city to stop wasting time and energy attacking the decree and instead operate under it,” ACLU attorney Harvey Grossman, told the paper.

Bobrick pounced on the city for taking more than 13 years to file its request for a modification of the decree in the wake of a separate court decision that the city argued changed the rules. Even the most generous reading of the law gave the city just three years, Grossman told the Times.

Bobrick rejected nearly all of the city’s other contentions point by point. They included city arguments that the decree hampers investigations.

Source: The Chicago Sun-Times, March 11, 1999

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release