February 5, 2019

How police practices can intensify discrimination

Governing -The intense scrutiny of residents ... is common in areas where poor black people live. Heavy-handed enforcement tactics are often employed in the name of protecting residents from crime. But often they catch only low-level offenders, with dire consequences for the offender’s ability to get a job or decent housing. That, in turn, reinforces deep-seated patterns of segregation in the communities where zero tolerance policies are used.

Governing conducted a six-month investigation into black-white segregation in downstate Illinois, and why and how it has persisted so stubbornly there. Specifically, we focused on the cities of Bloomington-Normal, Champaign-Urbana, Decatur, Springfield, Peoria and Rockford. Those cities are similar in size, separate from the major metropolitan areas of Chicago and St. Louis, and wholly contained in Illinois.

Our review found many practices that placed greater burdens on black residents than white residents because of where they lived. These practices were used not just by police, but by non- law enforcement agencies like the Rockford Housing Authority. They included increased surveillance, frequent ID checks and rigorously enforced nuisance ordinances.

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