Chicago’s illogical and discriminatory approach to selecting Sobriety Checkpoint locations favors Whites, targets Minorities

Earlier this year, an investigation by the Tribune, which examined demographical factors in sobriety checkpoint, first revealed the harsh reality of what many say is a blatant example of racial profiling. Specifically, that Chicago officials are unfairly targeting Black and Latino communities by employing a racially-based approach in selecting DUI checkpoints locations, as opposed to an objective approach that selects checkpoint locations based upon alcohol-related crash data.

Despite identification of the issue several months ago, ongoing investigation shows that DUI checkpoints still target minority neighborhoods.

As injury attorneys, our concern is accident prevention—-and if sobriety checkpoints can prevent accidents by catching drunk drivers, then shouldn’t their location be determined according to where alcohol-related crashes occur most frequently?

Consider the data:

# of checkpoints between Mar and Aug 2015: 14

# of checkpoints in Majority BLACK and LATINO communities: 13

# of checkpoints Majority WHITE: 1

# of checkpoints between Feb 2010 and Jun 2014: 152

# of checkpoints in Majority BLACK and LATINO communities: 127

# of checkpoints in Majority WHITE: 6

**% of alcohol-related crashes in Majority WHITE districts in past 4 yrs: 25%**


Given the foregoing, consider the following…

If 152 checkpoints are scheduled, and crash data shows that ¼ of alcohol-related crashes occur in majority white neighborhoods, than mathematically you would expect at least 38 checkpoints to be planned in white districts—yet there were only 6.

Now consider recent data…

If roughly a quarter of alcohol-related accidents occur in white neighborhoods, and 14 checkpoints were scheduled between March and August, than mathematically you would expect at least 3 of these to be conducted in predominately white districts? Yet there was only 1.

So, if the current checkpoint scheduling approach remains the same, then mathematically, we can expect the same disparate treatment, which favors white communities and targets minorities, to continue to occur.

For hypothetical purposes, let’s just say that some miraculous reduction in alcohol related incidents occurs in white neighborhoods in the future. Even at a 50% reduction, the DUI checkpoint location scheduling process, both currently and historically, are way off. Any way you do the math, the disparity is enormous.

We are not ignoring the fact that a drunk driver, regardless of race, is still a drunk driver, and the more we can get off our roadways, the better. However, in the absence of crash data showing a correlation between alcohol-related incidents and the racial make-up of a community, race should not play a role in determining where to set up sobriety checkpoints.

If the primary purpose of sobriety checkpoints is the prevention of impaired driving, and we know that 25% of drunk driving crashes occur in predominantly white districts, then why are there so few checkpoints in these neighborhoods? Does employing an approach that is not only illogical, but also discriminatory, really address the issue of drunk driving as a whole? We think not.

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