The Chicago Police Department was forced earlier this month to release bodycam footage of a February 2019 raid that left an innocent woman naked and handcuffed while police officers searched her home, WBBM-TV reported.
Anjanette Young, a social worker had come home from work and was undressing when officers repeatedly struck her door with a battering ram at around 7 p.m.
“It was so traumatic to hear the thing that was hitting the door,” Young told the local CBS News affiliate, while watching the video. “And it happened so fast, I didn’t have time to put on clothes.”
The footage was obtained by Young as part of her lawsuit against the police. Lawyers for the police department reportedly attempted to block the TV station from releasing the footage hours before it aired.
Mistakes began before the raid
Peter Johnson, a criminal law attorney, and professor at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law told Insider police made mistakes long before they stormed Young’s home.
Johnson explained that because police appeared to be operating on faulty information from an informant in order to execute a warrant, they should have exercised more due diligence to verify the information and confirm the individual they were looking for actually lived in, and was present at the home before they stormed in.
He said law-enforcement actions in Young’s case suggest a lack of respect for the Fourth Amendment which protects individuals’ privacy. He added that in circumstances where search warrants are needed, it’s critical to balance individual privacy rights, with law-enforcement interests.
In the video, Young was left basically naked as police searched her home and questioned her. In Johnson’s view, the officers could have treated the woman better. He suggested that it seemed apparent some of the officers realized they had made a mistake.
“The video is an extension of the lack of dignity or lack of weighing in the privacy interest of individuals. It started well before they entered. So it’s not surprising that they left her naked, and it’s not surprising that they had her handcuffed that way,” he said.
In the video, a sergeant can be heard asking: “There’s no one else who lives in this apartment?”
“No, no one else lives here,” Young responded. She told police they were in the wrong home more than 40 times throughout the video.
Wesley Skogan a member of Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research whose focused on community policing told Insider the raid was an example of commonplace behavior that occurred in the Chicago Police Department before Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot instituted new policies for search warrants in January 2020.
Mayor Lightfoot, who was elected in April 2019, initially said she only learned about Young’s case on the day the video was released but later that same week backtracked and revealed that she was aware of the incident in November 2019 but did not remember because she was dealing with the budget, WLS reported.
“I have an obligation to make that wrong, right,” Lightfoot said. “It’s been painful and upsetting.”
She has since recruited a former federal judge to investigate Young’s case, the Chicago Tribune reported on December 22.
However, long before the video was released, Lightfoot made changes to search warrant policies. In an email Lightfoot sent to Skogan, which Insider has reviewed, the mayor said: “I was elected to speak truth to power, and to take on systems that have failed Ms. Young and Black men, women and children for far too long. That is a mission that guides me every day.”
Lightfoot explained that after a 2019 City’s Chief Risk Officer review, search warrant policies were changed to require CPD to “independently verify any tips to confirm they have the right address–and CPD can’t act solely on any tips from an informant who has been compensated for the information. Police must always wear and activate their body-worn cameras; initiate an investigation into any incidents in which warrants were executed on wrong addresses; undertake steps to protect children during the execution of any search warrants, and two CPD supervisors must sign off on a warrant before it is presented to the prosecutor and the court for approval.”
A change in the status quo
Skogan said earlier policies allowed officers to essentially find a judge who could quickly sign a search warrant that may not have been properly vetted. According to Skogan, police would then carry out that warrant, in some instances, mixing up street or house numbers, and raiding the wrong location.
“That’s what they did. And so that’s what they continue to do because nobody was making them stop. That was sort of the rules that were in place in February of 2019 which was the decision to do a warrant search was very low level,” Skogan said.
“The decision to crash in through the door … It was also made at a very low level,” Skogan said.
Skogan explained that prior to January 2020, the process of getting a warrant was not as rigid as the procedures implemented by Lightfoot.
In February 2019, search warrants required the approval of only one supervisor before it moved up in the process and there wasn’t a great deal of effort put into ensuring that information was up-to-date and accurate. Skogan said he believed the 2020 changes would help prevent some of the errors made in the raid on Young’s home.
He said that while the new rules are helpful, it’s really the “follow-through that is always the big thing in police reform. It’s not the rule, it’s the follow-through.”
That policy was common practice, but Chris Burbank, a former Salt Lake City police chief and current vice president of law-enforcement strategy for the Center for Policing Equity told Insider that while faulty practices like these were commonplace in the past few decades, it’s not exactly an affair to simply just blame the police officers.
Burbank said police clearly made errors especially after realizing that Young was not the person they were looking for, and that their suspect was not in her apartment, but still continuing to handcuff and interrogate her, he said the issue begs the question of assessing the need for search warrants in situations like Young. He said it would have been a lot wiser to apprehend suspects wanted on the street or at a time when they’re out in public and unsuspecting instead of raiding homes.
Burbank explained that while reforms like the ones Lightfoot put in place in January could help, it’s time to question whether or not search warrants are always necessary. He argued in a situation like this, officers could have sought out better information, especially since they later realized the man they were looking for was out of jail with an ankle monitor and could have been easily traced. Police could have worked to intercept the guy while he was walking on the street or heading to work, essentially someplace out in the open but not inside a home.
He argued that search warrants are necessary for different circumstances, like for drugs, guns, or other items, but warrants issued to find a person may not be as effective.
“This is a shortcoming of our system that needs to be revamped because what we failed to do is when you then look scientifically at general and consent searches and everything that goes into that, these are not efficient or effective tools of law enforcement,” Burbank said.
“We need to be evaluating the actions of our police agencies across the country at all levels, federal, state, and local. As in, are they doing the right thing? And are those actions producing the outcome that we want, or are they interjecting more disparity, more force, and more negative things into the system that is causing us problems? And I would dare say that absolutely this is an example of one of those circumstances and you can point to lots of them across the country.”
The situation could have escalated
Johnson, the criminal law attorney and UCLA professor, said the police raid on Anjanette Young’s home could have ended tragically. He explained that not all the officers who were present for the raid were officers who worked to research the case or obtained the warrant, so they were working under the knowledge that they were entering a home where they were searching for something illegal.
So, had Young attempted to reach for clothes to get dressed, an officer could have reasonably assumed she was reaching for a weapon and the officer could have potentially fired their weapon in response, as has been the case in multiple incidences of police shootings over the last decade.
The video of Young’s raid shows police officers carrying out their search of her home for 13 minutes before a female officer came in and took Young to her room to get dressed. Young was handcuffed and questioned again. A sergeant then began to ask the officer for information about the search warrant.
He would come back, apologize to Young and tell her the department would follow up with her. Her door was left broken as police departed with attempts to keep it closed by propping items up against it, the video showed.
The Chicago Police Department declined to comment to Insider and Lightfoot’s office did not reply to Insider’s email requests for comment at the time of publication.
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