Chicago Police Want to Loosen Curbs on Police Spying
Jun. 13, 1995
CHICAGO (AP) _ Saying times have changed since officers spied on everyone from the Black Panthers to the PTA, Chicago is trying to lift some of the restrictions it placed on its police intelligence gathering a decade ago.
With the city also preparing to hold its first national political convention since police beat anti-war demonstrators outside the Democratic National Convention in 1968, the timing of the move has become an issue.
``We would have had a peaceful confrontation in this town if City Hall hadn't acted the way it did in 1968, and now it looks like the old impulses, unfortunately, are working again,'' Jay Miller, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune.
City officials say negotiations to ease the restrictions began before the city knew it was going to hold the 1996 Democratic National Convention and comparisons to 1968 are unfair.
``Because of the problems that existed in the Vietnam crisis in the '60s, and even the civil rights movement, some police agencies throughout the country went overboard,'' and had restrictions placed on them, said Mayor Richard M. Daley, whose late father was mayor during the 1960s and '70s.
``We believe in the 1990s that we have to unleash that restriction that pertains to organized crime,'' Daley said, ``to gangs, narcotics problems that we see existing in the city.''
Restricting police activities such as reporting threatening conversations or videotaping groups can handcuff investigators who face a growing threat from street gangs and even domestic terrorism, said Police Superintendent Matt Rodriguez.
``(They are) keeping information from us that we should have with respect to potential criminal activity, potential terrorist activity that we could probably be investigating a lot more effectively,'' Rodriguez said.
Harvey Grossman, who negotiated the 1982 consent decree and is reviewing the city's proposal to alter it, isn't convinced.
``We think the decree doesn't prevent effective law enforcement,'' said Grossman, the ACLU's legal director. ``We do not believe in any way that it promotes the commission of violent crimes.''
The 20-page decree was signed after more than 60 organizations and individuals sued the city in 1974, contending police systematically spied on them and disrupted legal activities.
An attorney representing some of the groups said at the time he received a 1960 Police Department memo that showed the department's ``Red Squad'' kept files on such organizations as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Parent Teachers Association and the League of Women Voters.
``Red Squad'' was a term given to police units across the country that investigated Communists and other alleged subversives. Chicago's Red Squad was disbanded in 1975 after a Cook County grand jury report documented many instances of civil rights abuses.