Despite Not Finding Drugs Nearly 95 Percent Of The Time, Judges Keep Approving Drug Warrants For Chicago Cops

from the definition-of-insanity dept

The Chicago Police Department has firmly established itself as one of the worst police forces in America. From running an off-the-books, Constitution-evading “black site” to interrogate detainees without bringing in their lawyers or rights to loading up its gang database with thousands of non-gang members, the department is a horrific mess.

The basic duty of warrant service is similarly infected by the PD’s lackadaisical attitude towards the rights of the people they serve. An investigation into search warrants by a local CBS affiliate found that an alarming amount of drug related search warrants fail to turn up any drugs. The report [PDF] — which examines several thousand warrants executed by the PD — shows that, far too often, there’s nothing illegal going on in the residences the PD chooses to raid.

Total search warrants where property recovered: 6,067 (88.5% of the time)
Total search warrants where guns were found: 1,992 (29% of the time)
Total search warrants where drugs were turned over: 286 (4% of the time)
Search warrants where an arrest was made: 3,931 (57% of the time)
Search warrants where no arrest was made: 2,924 (Nearly 43% of the time)
Search warrants that were completely negative (no arrest, no guns or property recovered): 679 (nearly 10%, or 1 in 10 search warrants were negative)

Almost half the time, the only result of a house search is a destroyed house. If officers decide they don’t need to destroy the door (and windows or whatever) on their way in, tossing a house leaves it in complete disarray. When officers are wrong, it’s the citizens who pay. And for all the claims that drugs are contributing to Chicago’s spike in violent crime, drugs are so rarely found officers could achieve the same success rate by raiding random houses, rather than those they’ve bothered to copy-paste affidavit boilerplate about.

Eliminating non-drug related search warrants doesn’t make anything any better. 72% of warrants detailed in this report were drug related. But the increase in drugs recovered doesn’t even amount to a rounding error.

Out of the 4,921, drugs were turned over in 221 cases. That’s 4.4% of the time.

Given this hit rate, there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of probable cause supporting these warrants. So why do they keep getting approved? Because officers know which judges to approach to get an affidavit rubber-stamped.

In Cook County, approximately 70 judges can approve search warrants, according to the Cook County Chief Judge’s Office.

[Judge Mauricio] Araujo signed off on more search warrants in Chicago than any other judge in a three-year period, according to police search warrant data analyzed by CBS 2. More than 1,166 search warrants listed his name as the judge.

Judge Araujo’s relationships with PD officers certainly makes any claims of impartiality suspect.

Araujo had signed warrants for two former officers, David Salgado and Xavier Elizondo, who used the warrants to raid and rob people. The officers were later convicted.

Araujo described to the FBI his relationship with Salgado as “more than an acquaintance, but not quite a friend,” the Chicago Tribune reported, adding Araujo had attended multiple events with Salgado, including the wake for Salgado’s mother, the officer’s bachelor party in Colombia and his wedding in 2017.

Two things have changed which make Judge Araujo less of a threat to people’s civil liberties. Policy changes in the court system randomized judge selection for warrant approval, partially preventing officers from going to the most compliant judges. Second, Judge Araujo resigned in September after the state’s judicial commission ruled there was “clear and convincing evidence” Araujo had sexually harassed female police officers and county attorneys.

That won’t undo the damage done by cops acting with almost zero judicial restraint. It might prevent some damage in the future. Police officers may not be able to engage in the hard work of internal reform, but they’re pretty good at finding loopholes that allow them to act the way they want to. But they can’t ignore the facts: Chicago’s local drug warriors are rarely racking up wins in the War on Drugs. And judges who won’t demand more from officers and their sworn statements are just making the problem worse.

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Comments on “Despite Not Finding Drugs Nearly 95 Percent Of The Time, Judges Keep Approving Drug Warrants For Chicago Cops”

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: When there are no rules, there are NO rules.

Because this is how you get the Sicilian Mafia, La Résistance, Al-Qaeda also the less nice iterations of the Sons of Liberty.

This is also how you level up a street gang from a band of local teenage hooligans into a neighborhood organized crime syndicate.

When the red-coats cease fairly enforcing laws and start harassing the colonist civilians, they start thinking about independence.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: When there are no rules, there are NO rules.

"When the red-coats cease fairly enforcing laws and start harassing the colonist civilians, they start thinking about independence…"

Which only means that once the independent thinkers are done being "un-english" they have to start being "un-american" instead. Because being a liberal and have a mind of your own is, to 73 million braying hate-filled sheep, an ugly thing.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 When there are no rules, there are NO rules.

"wtf are you going n about?"

Once upon a time there was a nation called "England". That nation had colonies. Those colonies were heavily taxed without being represented, and their citizenry were being oppressed as "second class citizens", particularly regarding their ideologies, ethnicity, creeds and religion. Whenever the colonies objected wealthy british peers and landowners complained about the colonists lacking fidelity to the Empire. Revolution followed as a result.

In that new country a few centuries pass which brings us to the present day…when a sizeable proportion of the citizenry is disenfranchised (without representation), treated like second class citizens, particularly regarding their ethnicities, ideologies, creeds and religion. Whenever those minorities protest wealthy peers and landowners complainb about those minorities being "unamerican" and lacking loyalty to the nation.

When the redcoats killed five people in a riot the result was the Boston Tea Party – and the resulting creation of the USA.
When centuries of race riots and targeted oppression see death tolls in the thousands the current political landlords call the resulting protests borderline treason and the leadership calls for the redcoats.

Learn your history, lest you repeat it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Just another criminal gang

"Unfortunately, our soon-to-be new POTUS and his/her veep have between them a combined ~77 year history of supporting this criminal gang."

This is not entirely false, but I must add,
Fortunately, the fascist opposition lost allowing the people out from under the heel of authoritarianism.
Unfortunately, the nazis will not stop here and eternal vigilance (smirk) is necessary, if you see something,say something.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

So, about that third world comparison...

…because in first world countries the police acts on reasonable suspicion, not by picking names out of a phone book at random and handing them to a judge.

I see two possible reasons as to why 95% of these searches come up blank;

1) The department is somehow inept enough to think their actual job is harrassing people they have no reason to actually suspect.
2) The department isn’t inept but the drugs they do find almost never make it to the evidence locker.

Given recent trends I’d be sadly unsurprised to find that a major reason for having a few officers storming your house for no obvious reason might be "being brown".

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Being brown

I bet the study would be able to determine the races / skin color of all the false positives.

I remember how police dogs in Cook County that alert on Latin folk false positive over 90%.

So yeah, I bet among the drug raided houses that didn’t yield drugs, nonwhites are disproportionately represented.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Being brown

"I bet among the drug raided houses that didn’t yield drugs, nonwhites are disproportionately represented."

Actually common enough to make you wonder how much of a "get out of jail free card" being white really is, in the US. I mean, if a non-white is twice or three times as likely to be searched by the police as a white person and Harvard statistics establish that looking only at strength of actual evidence black people are far more likely to be sentenced in cases where a white person would walk, it’s suddenly hard to imagine anyone but the dumbest or most obvious white offenders even ending up in jail.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Does anyone here actually read the report or the CBS article that this information came from (Tim Cushing included)?

The CBS article is inflammatory at best but even they do a much better job of describing their findings than this post.

Everything about the analysis here is either wrong or unsupported by the actual data given in the report. Here are the two big statements everyone needs to understand:

Simply because a search warrant is "drug-related" does not mean that the purpose of the warrant is to find and recover drugs. In particular, the report does not explain exactly what the phrasing "drug-related" means so determining if a search warrant was properly crafted or improperly is a bit hard. Especially if you are assuming the purpose of every "drug-related" search warrant must be to find drugs; what if the drugs were recovered incident to arrest and the search warrant is simply to gather corroborating evidence?

One of the other statistics given in the report showed that out of the "drug-related" search warrants only 8.2% of them failed to find any items or result in some action. This means that a very strong argument could be made that 91.8% of those search warrants were "effective." A far cry from the 4.4% statistic given as God's honest truth in the original post.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:


You clearly want to play the role of a journalist. So I have a few questions for you, Woodwind and Berenstain:

  • Which segment(s) of the population, if any, did the police target with these “effective” warrants far more often than any other?
  • How many total prosecutions resulted from these warrants, and how many of those ended with a plea or verdict of “guilty”?
  • How many of the prosecutions connected to these warrants targeted innocent people with no connection to any crimes or criminal enterprises?
  • What effect did these warrants, and any successful prosecutions arising from those warrants, have on overall crime rates?
ECA (profile) says:

Re: 6700 searches

to cover 286 drug charges,
That created 3700 arrests, nothing about convictions.
Total search warrants where property recovered: 6,067 (88.5% of the time)
Over 1/2 the time they found something to TAKE from the residence, while looking for a way to make an arrest over 1/2 arrested.
1900 guns and 286 drug found?

Property recovered 6067 = 2186 drugs and guns? And 3700 arrested 1514 for Being in the house during a raid? wheres the rest of the property?
2900 where no arrest? 2900+3700=6600 cases?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

"Simply because a search warrant is "drug-related" does not mean that the purpose of the warrant is to find and recover drugs. "

Why not just give them a blank check, oh wait a sec

The war on drugs is just as bogus as it was in the 70s when Tricky Dick started this friggin mess, the only difference is that now-a-days they are Judge Dredd authorized.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

[W]hat if the drugs were recovered incident to arrest[,] and the search warrant is simply to gather corroborating evidence?

Sounds superfluous to me. What “corroborating evidence” would be needed? You already have drugs, and a charge of possession with intent to distribute can be sustained just based on the amount in their possession.

Andre Leonard says:

Lazy Chicago Judges signing off on too many search warrants

Yet in the end I must blame the people. Once appointed to the bench Chicago area jurist are subject to election/s every 4 years. Sad reality is almost all are reelected even with their terrible record of signing too many ‘search warrants’ that yield no evidence of a crime. Nothing seized.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Elected law enforcement

John Oliver deep-dives into why incompetent judges and sheriffs get re-elected. (Either here or here.

The recent general election has demonstrated the problem with blaming the people. The commons will always be a tragedy.

The next step is to look at why people vote stupidly, and find measures to help them be less stupid.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The next step is to look at why people vote stupidly, and find measures to help them be less stupid.

That means we have to fix the incredibly broken education systems prevalent in “red” states, find effective counters for conservative anti-science propaganda campaigns (and the beliefs they forment), and stop letting social media turn all its users into ongoing scientific proof of The G.I.F.T.

I don’t see that happening without major demographic shifts (and thus major shifts in governance) across the country. To quote a popular abridged anime series: “Oh wow, we are fucked.”

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"That means we have to fix the incredibly broken education systems prevalent in “red” states…"

Which, courtesy of some rather dark US history, badly funded schools, and no end of anti-education propaganda will be uphill work. 1 out of 3 americans will actively oppose "the guvmint" educating their children since they don’t hold with concepts like "science", "factual history" and "critical thinking". Ironically the same crowd who largely hollered in approval when Trump decided to launch the Jugendbund v2…I mean Patriotic Education telling their children the "real" story about the US.
The one where every working man in the US would still be living in the glory days of 1950 if it weren’t for black people stealin’ all de wimmin’, "ze jews" stealin’ the money from the honest god-fearin’ folk, all dem mexican rapists and drug dealers swarming across the Rio Grande takin’ all the good jobs, and all the modern wimmin thinkin dey’re good for anything other than the kitchen or the bedroom.
That story. You know the one. It’s the one where the poor uneducated trailer trash gets to blame everyone else for not being "properly appreciated" for being born a white american. Feel free to replace "white american" with "pure-blooded german" for a hint as to where that narrative comes from.

"…find effective counters for conservative anti-science propaganda campaigns…"

That’ll boil down to, by now, not letting the 1 in 3 indoctrinate their children with incurable and willful stupidity…and then wait for the current generation of morons to die out. I don’t think the US has the political or civic will to do that so the alternative will be used instead – civil war, once it’s become abundantly clear that 1 in 3 americans want all the non-whites gone at any cost and the 2 in 3 who make up the "normal" people discover the hard way the fence they usually want to sit on in that question isn’t there anymore.

"To quote a popular abridged anime series: “Oh wow, we are fucked.”"

Yeah. The US only has those two options left. The first of which is continuing the slowly escalating slide into the pit by trying the usual stunt of "reconcile and heal" without addressing the fundamental split between opinions like;"racism and bigotry is OK" and "Hell no, it’s not!" ; or "Fuck you, got mine!" vs "Living in a community means everyone does their part". At the end of that road everyone will be relieved to see the end of it – even if that end is a nation on fire.

The other option is to give the customary spiel of "forgive and forget" a pass. Tolerance and respect are parts of the social contract. They demand you reciprocate. The US will have to man up and do what Germany did – what most of europe had to do – and make sure those unable to extend basic tolerance and respect to others become and remain outcasts and pariahs until they damn well learn that door swings both ways.

Neither choice is a good one, but by now it’s the only choices left on the table. Ideally this should have been headed off in the 70’s and maybe shit wouldn’t have gotten this bad, this fast.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
JoeCool (profile) says:


The reason they keep doing this is obvious from the stats posted… this one in particular:

Total search warrants where property recovered: 6,067 (88.5% of the time)

Bingo! Civil Forfeiture rears its ugly head. This practice is bringing home the bacon, so they’re going to keep right on submitting these warrants.

Cops break in the door and spot a nice 75" TV…

"That looks stolen to me! Load it up, boys!"

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Obvious

Do judges get any of these forfeiture money? I would understand the cops doing it but judges? I’d guess it’s either "I don’t follow the developments of my own warrants" or "geez, it returned blank results 95 fucking percent of the time but hey, better safe than sorry" but I don’t know how the money flows there

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Obvious

"Do judges get any of these forfeiture money?"

No, judges get something better – political credibility.

Most US judges are elected, same as District attorneys – public prosecutors. That means a judge (or prosecutor) needs to tend to their political career. And there’s no faster career-killer than the public perception that a candidate for those positions is "soft on crime".

And whose word is it which determines that perception? Police and police unions, mainly. So in reality most judges and DA’s depend wholeheartedly on the goodwill of the police for their careers. Hence why no DA willingly prosecutes a police officer and judges are leery of being known as "obstructionists".

Approval of civil forfeitures doesn’t bring the judge any money, but it certainly gives the judge bonus cred in the local police department which is even better.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Tough on crime

Yeah, only since 2014 in the aftermath of the Ferguson Unrest has the tough on crime mantra been scrutinized and publicly revealed to be tough on poor and tough on nonwhites.

Though observers have noticed the relationship since the early 20th century, no-one outside those neighborhoods noticed.

Now we have ubiquitous phone cameras and the internet. And man, that was a way better futurist choice over energy rifles and flying cars. The question is if we can survive the resulting society change, (and then save the global ecology.)

samevaginaforever (profile) says:

In Chicago, cops often go beyond their authority. When my brother was celebrating a bachelor party, the police came to us, they wanted to find drugs where there are none! Let’s talk about the good stuff, the bachelor party was incredible. The most important thing is to plan the schedule and the list of places efficiently. I got some good ideas from

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