Young people under 24 were arrested 429 times in Boystown between March and October this year, according to the Chicago Police Department. Young people complain frequently about the lack of respect they are shown by police. And those complaints sometimes include treatment that is violent, said Lisa Gilmore, director of education and victim advocacy at Center on Halsted. But young people who want to address their grievances face many obstacles.
Gilmore shared the story of a young transgender person who was stopped by police outside a convenience store in Lakeview. One officer ran a baton around the young person's skirt and started to lift it up, asking what genitalia the youth had underneath.
"That's not okay," Gilmore said. "That is sexual violence."
Those who don't like the way they are treated by police should file a formal complaint with the police department, said Officer Joe Rios, LGBT liaison for the Chicago Police Department (CPD).
"We as an organization, CPD, are committed to treating everybody fairly," Rios said. "That's the ultimate goal. Everybody should be treated with respect."
Joey Mogul, a civil rights attorney with the People's Law Office, encouraged young people who want to file a complaint to contact a lawyer first. Lawyers can help youth decide the best route for registering complaints, which often depends on whether there is a criminal case pending.
"Anything they say can be used against them," Mogul said.
The Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) is responsible for investigating police misconduct alongside the police's own internal affairs. In May, The Chicago Reporter found that 91 percent of complaints lodged against police with IPRA were dropped because the person making the complaint did not swear to the truthfulness of the allegation.
But Mogul said IPRA has the discretion to decide when police are required to swear to the truthfulness of their allegations. In more serious cases, Mogul said, the IPRA will ask police for such information.
"But I can tell you in many excessive force cases, that's not happening," Mogul added.
The Young Women's Empowerment Project (YWEP) collects data about "bad encounters" with police and other institutions by hand, online and by phone. YWEP is a youth-led project for girls, including transgender youth, who have experience in the sex trade or street economies.
In May 2012, YWEP released a report that described 146 "bad encounters" it had documented since September 2009. The most frequent complaint was a refusal to help. And the vast majority of negative encounters came from the Lakeview and Englewood neighborhoods. Health care institutions ran a close second to police as a source of "bad encounters" for youth.
YWEP director Dominique McKinney believes the 146 documented encounters don't accurately represent every instance of misconduct.
"Young people may not want to retell the story or may fear writing it down could lead to trouble somehow," the YWEP report states. "When challenging large systems like the police in Chicago, young people don't feel like a report gives them a fair chance to fight the misconduct with any hope that justice will take place or that officers will be held accountable."
"Institutions need to realize that they will be held accountable by young people," McKinney said. "If we don't do it, who is gonna do it? And who best to do it, but us?"
Chicago Police arrests in Boystown, people ages 12-24 (for the period covering March 4 - October 15, listed by crime)
Aggravated assault 2
Aggravated battery 6
Motor vehicle theft 3
Simple assault 11
Simple battery 53
Weapons violation 7
Sex Crime - Criminal sexual abuse 8
Narcotics violation 70
Liquor law violation 2
Disorderly conduct 42
Miscellaneous non-indexed offense 37
Municipal code violation 27
Traffic violation 7
Warrant arrest 38
Notes: Police districts 19 and 23 combined on March 4; Boystown is defined here as Grace Street to the north, Wellington Avenue to the south, Sheffield Avenue to the west, Lake Shore Drive to the east. Source: Chicago Police Department.
Generation Halsted is an eight-week series that seeks to capture youth voices not typically represented in Windy City Times and other media. The young people portrayed have many housing situations, gender identities and sexual orientations. The series looks primarily, but not exclusively, at Boystown, where an influx of young LGBTQ people has been a source of controversy. Windy City Times will continue to explore the issues raised here beyond this series.
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