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Minorities May Have a Case for 911 Call Bias

(CN) - Chicago must face claims that it responds more slowly to 911 calls in Hispanic and black neighborhoods, an Illinois appeals court ruled.

In a 2011 complaint, the Central Austin Neighborhood Association and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois alleged violations of the Illinois Civil Rights Act and sought a change in the way the city responds to 911 calls

The groups cited a report in the Chicago Sun-Times that found minority neighborhoods have more 911 calls per officer and longer response times for 911 calls. The city dispatches officers only from the police district where the 911 call originated.

Disparate response times have been a problem in Chicago for 20 years, the groups said, asking for a court order requiring the city to take remedial action.

Chicago persuaded a Cook County judge to dismiss the case by arguing that the plaintiffs merely raised a nonjusticiable political question, rather than a presenting a problem that the court can remedy.

A three-judge panel with the Illinois Appellate Court's first district reversed on Nov. 13.

"The political question doctrine does not divest a court of jurisdiction to address plaintiffs' claim that the city's allocation of resources to respond to 911 calls results in a disparate impact on residents of police districts populated largely by African-Americans and Hispanics, and therefore, the trial court should not have dismissed the complaint for failure to state a judiciable claim," Justice P. Scott Neville wrote for the panel.

"Courts have the power to order appropriate relief for the unjustified disparate impact of a city's administrative practices on certain racial and ethnic groups. No constitutional provision immunizes from judicial review the alleged disparate impact of the city's administrative methods for responding to 911 calls on distinct racial groups," Neville added.

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