On Tuesday, July 27, seven months after Chicago witnessed body-camera footage of Anjanette Young in her home, naked and surrounded by officers who were raiding it in search of someone who did not live there, the City Council is holding a hearing on an ordinance named after her. The Anjanette Young Ordinance would prohibit the practice of no-knock or knock-and-announce warrants, require more evidence beyond just one informant before conducting a raid, and require police to keep more documentation of such home invasions, especially when children are present.
“It was so traumatic to hear the thing that was hitting the door,” Young said in a December 2020 interview with CBS 2. “And it happened so fast, I didn’t have time to put on clothes. There were big guns. Guns with lights and scopes on them. And they were yelling at me, you know, put your hands up, put your hands up…. It’s one of those moments where I felt I could have died that night.”
Young’s high-profile experience is not unique or some rare mistake. The City Council and the public can read for themselves a mountain of evidence in the form of police misconduct complaints about home invasions by the Chicago Police Department. And though Young drew in support through the body camera footage and the fact that the police invaded on the incorrect address, traumatic experiences like hers are not limited to search warrants of someone’s home, “correct” or not.
Anjanette Young’s story is reminiscent of another woman whose lawsuit helped open the door to this library of misconduct. In 2003, Diane Bond lived in former high-rise public housing, Stateway Gardens, where she was repeatedly assaulted by a group of police officers known as the Skullcap Crew. She came forward with her story, which is documented in a series called Kicking the Pigeon, by filing a police complaint and a lawsuit.
Bond v. Utreras revealed a list of officers with many complaints made against them and spurred the legal intervention Kalven v. Chicago, which ensured the records were made public. For Bond, however, her case ended like most others who filed a lawsuit against the police: she received money in lieu of pursuing a trial. In 2018, years after her ordeal, Bond told us she still sleeps with a bar in front of her door.
The pretenses cops use for home invasions do not always take the form of a search warrant. The group of officers who sexually violated Diane Bond used the war on drugs as their excuse to force their way into her home. They routinely searched for drugs on people who lived in public housing, physically assaulting and tormenting residents in their homes with impunity for years.
Craig Futterman, a professor at the University of Chicago Mandel Legal Aid Clinic who represented Bond, helped write the Anjanette Young Ordinance. At a May 4 town hall on the ordinance, Futterman shared data that showed that between 2016–2019, CPD performed more than 1,500 raids a year, forty-three percent of which resulted in no arrests and fewer than five percent of which turned up any drugs.
“CPD doesn’t even document when it targets the wrong address, the wrong home, much less report it, to any of us during those 1,500 raids they perpetrate every year,” Futterman said at the town hall.
Damon Wiliams, an organizer with the Chicago Torture Justice Center and Defund CPD campaign, told the Invisible Institute that the collective burden of police violence in the city is that of an institution rooted in terror. “If we saw this practice happen in a different national context we would use it as an excuse for military intervention,” he said. “This practice shows that our police are municipal military agencies, not health responders or social services.”
While he supports the ordinance, Williams said he believes the City should build a framework for reparations into its legislation.
“If someone’s house or living situation has been destroyed, we should know how often that’s happened. We should acknowledge that so many of the people who have been targeted have been criminalized or marginalized in certain ways,” Williams said. “The City, if it were sincere, should look deeply at the decades of harm by this practice and take seriously the project of repair and healing, which requires deep investment [into at least] housing and medical healing resources.”
Through a release of police complaint documents as a result of Charles Green v. Chicago Police Department, we are able to read testimonies of community members who have come forward through the daunting official complaint process to report their stories of police abuse.
What we’ve observed in the complaint data
We have thus far identified fifty complaints connected to home invasions in Chicago that occurred between 2011 and 2015. We’ve made a list of them available here for public viewing. Some examples that stand out:
A disabled Black man alleged that in 2012 officers entered and searched his apartment without giving justification, dragged him out of his wheelchair, forced him into a non-accessible police van, made him crawl up the stairs inside a police station, and denied him use of a wheelchair or accessible bathrooms, causing him to urinate on himself.
While the officers’ behavior violated policy, they were not held accountable because the complainant did not sign an affidavit. The Anjanette Young Ordinance would potentially change this complaint process, as it states that “No Affidavit, Sworn Testimony or Statement shall be required to initiate an investigation into an allegation of misconduct against any Chicago Police member.”
A forty-two-year-old Black woman alleged in 2014 that while an officer executed a search warrant—an approved search for cannabis—he pointed his gun at her face and the faces of the other victims, poured her medication on the floor, and broke open her safe.
A thirty-year-old Asian woman alleged that the CPD Narcotics Division executed a search warrant in 2013 at the wrong address, breaking open her dead-bolted back door while she was half dressed and causing her one-year-old and three-year-old children trauma and hypersensitivity to all loud sounds, and emotional distress for the family weeks after the incident. Officers were not held accountable because the complainant did not sign an affidavit.
A thirty-year-old Black woman alleged that in 2012, a group of white officers entered her home while she was half naked, cuffed her, and while she was handcuffed, the officer who helped her pull up her pants touched her vagina with his right thumb.
A fifty-three-year-old Black woman alleged that in 2014 a group of officers—who she said had served warrants at her residence in 2011 and 2012 and found nothing—served a warrant without justification and destroyed her door locks, put a hole in a basement door, and ransacked her home. Officers were not held accountable because she did not sign an affidavit.
A Black woman alleged that in 2012, police coerced her into signing a form consenting to a search only after they had already searched her home for cannabis, and that they did so by threatening to arrest her and call DCFS. Officers were not held accountable because the complainant did not sign an affidavit.
These documents reveal that home invasions and violations at the hands of police are not an isolated mistake but the regular outcome of CPD’s system of search warrants.
They are only public because of a lawsuit Jamie Kalven, the founder of the Invisible Institute, brought against the City in 2014. The City’s Law Department fought to keep the records hidden, as it did in the case of Diane Bond, as it did in Anjanette Young’s case, and as it continued to do in Charles Green’s case.
In Young’s case, the Law Department fought for more than a year to keep body-camera footage of the raid from being released. “I feel like they didn’t want us to have this video because they knew how bad it was,” Young said when the video was finally made public. “They knew they had done something wrong. They knew that the way they treated me was not right.”
Laws around search warrants exist already, and the policies that currently exist are supposed to be stringent. But in practice, those policies haven’t had much effect on the carte-blanche approval judges typically grant to search warrant requests. The Fourth Amendment requires that a person have some notice before the police enter the home, making no-knock warrants unconstitutional, and police must have probable cause under exigent circumstances. The Supreme Court held in Mincey v. Arizona (1978) that the seriousness of the offense under investigation does not create exigency; exigency exists when there is some possibility that harm will befall someone [Brigham City v. Stuart (2006)] or that evidence will be destroyed [Kentucky v. King (2011)]. In matters of probable cause, however, judges routinely defer to police judgement. Traumatized civilians must be believed, or at least given the same deference as police officers.
The documents routinely include testimony that officers damage property. Often, the police are exonerated. When the Anjanette Young Ordinance requires officers to be the “least intrusive to people’s home, property and person and least harmful to people’s physical and emotional health,” what consequences will officers be held to if they try to act with impunity?
The ordinance will require police to provide more documentation of residential raids. But can documentation alone change the lived experience of those subjected to police violence? How can we prevent the trauma and violence inflicted upon children who are not named in a search warrant, but are casualties of the raid? Even in the cases where the search warrant was approved and served on the correct address and an arrest was made, how do we ensure constitutional and human rights are protected?
Above all, these records—a veritable library of misconduct—raise the questions: what should the threshold be to allow an officer to enter one’s home? Why and when should society allow for raids?
Williams cautioned against being satisfied with banning no-knock raids as enough of a reform. “The difference between not knocking and then destroying your house, versus knocking on the door then destroying the house, is marginal,” he said. “The harm will continue if we’re overly accommodating to police in this legislation. We need to look at police and their practices holistically and move past looking at their best intentions, and instead look at their power.”
The authors are members of the Invisible Institute, where Trina Reynolds-Tyler is the director of data and Maira Khwaja is the director of public strategy. Together, they work on Beneath the Surface, a long-form investigation into gender based violence at the hands of Chicago Police; Citizens Police Data Project, a database of Chicago police misconduct information going back to 1988; and Release the Records, a campaign to ensure the City of Chicago fulfills its legal obligation to make all underlying narrative documents of police complaint records available and accessible to the public.