High-ranking CPD cop instructed officers to target “possible non-residents” for traffic stops in Chinatown, emails show

One of the Chicago Police Department’s highest-ranking leaders has repeatedly instructed officers under his command to concentrate “enforcement actions” on people that they think live in other parts of town, according to emails provided to CWB Chicago.

Dep. Chief Frederick Melean, who oversees one of the department’s five geographic areas, regularly issued the order in bold-faced type within emails that instructed other leaders, including deputy chiefs, Community Safety Team supervisors, and the bureau of patrol to conduct so-called traffic missions.

***Please ensure that a car is sent to Chinatown area and is proactive in being highly visible while maintaining their blue lights throughout. Please have them concentrate not on the residents but on possible non-residents when conducting enforcement actions. [Positive community interactions] within this area would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Melean’s emails do not say how cops are supposed to determine if a driver lives in Chinatown without stopping them.

CPD Dep. Chief Frederick Melean (inset) and the famed Chinatown gate. | CPD; Wikicommons

CPD directives expressly prohibit officers from using a person’s “race, ethnicity, color” and a host of other traits when deciding whether to conduct “routine or spontaneous law enforcement decisions,” including traffic stops.

After state researchers determined last year that Chicago police stop Black drivers far more frequently than White and Hispanic drivers, a CPD spokesperson insisted the department treats all drivers equally.

“Officers are trained to stop vehicles after a traffic violation or potential crime has occurred. We do not target individuals based on race or community,” the spokesperson told Block Club Chicago.

On Tuesday, CPD Supt. David Brown said Melean’s email was “poorly written and should not have gone out.”

“It is not indicative of the direction or policies of our department. Our job is to protect and serve, and the aim of the Citywide Traffic Safety Program is to improve traffic safety in neighborhoods,” Brown said in a written statement to CWB Chicago.

“I will personally be speaking with those involved in the dissemination of this memo to counsel them regarding appropriate policies and procedures.,” the superintendent said.

A source told CWB Chicago that Melean “sent this email out daily for months to around the beginning of March, at which point someone must have caught it and told him to change the verbiage.”

Melean’s order to target “possible non-residents” for enforcement action comes as Brown is pressuring the department’s leaders to conduct even more traffic stops.

In a separate email last month, Melean told Area 1 command staff that Brown “is really on this top 55 beat integrity thing and traffic stops.”

“He is comparing traffic stops to 2019 numbers,” Melean said of Brown. “We are down 45% However, in the past 28 days all of our Districts are in the top 10.”

So, if Melean’s instructions are being followed, drivers that cops perceive to live in the wrong neighborhood may find themselves far more likely to be pulled over for investigation as CPD leaders try to keep up with Brown’s expectations.

CPD provided Brown’s statement in response to a series of emailed questions. The department did not respond directly to the questions, however.

For example, we were interested in hearing about how CPD trains police officers to identify where a driver lives by looking at them. We wanted to know if cops in other neighborhoods were also told to stop people they think don’t live in the immediate area — and, if so, how those determinations are made.

We also asked why Brown is focusing on the volume of traffic stops and how traffic stops affect the city’s crime rate.

For now, those questions remain unanswered.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com