Human Rights Monitoring Mission Report Back

Human Rights Monitoring Report Back: Are People Now Able to Call for Legal Aid from the Police Stations? 

First Defenders and Public Defenders Conduct “Access to Counsel Audits” of 3 Chicago Police Stations After Historic Agreement to Post Legal Aid Numbers


Last month, the Chicago police department conceded to one of FDLA’s ongoing policy demands for increasing access to counsel for arrestees: Providing our toll-free number to arrestees via posters installed visibly in every facility.

An administrative order from the Chief Judge, allowing the public defenders to represent arrestees, was issued the same week. A third critical companion policy has not yet been implemented: a state or city law or Chicago Police Department (CPD) policy ensuring arrestees have access to the phones within 1-2 hours of arrest. FDLA suspected that lack of access to phones, or even the promised posters, may be why our phones are still not ringing off the hook with arrestees asking for free lawyers at the stations. So…we asked for CPD legal affairs’ assistance in scheduling site visits to the stations to see for ourselves:

In keeping with the Human Rights principles of transparency and accountability, the site visits seek to learn:

Are the posters:

  • in fact installed?
  • visible as soon as someone arrives?
  • visible from inside interview rooms?
  • visible from the phones?


  • where are the phones in relation to where an arrestee arrives, rights are read, and interrogations conducted?

Here is the video from after the first visit, to the 2nd District (51st & Wentworth):


Here is the video from before the 7th District (63rd & Loomis) Inspection:


Here is the video from after the 7th District inspection:

Here is the video from after the 6th District (78th & Halsted) monitoring mission:


When two of our policy priorities were committed to publicly by decision makers, we celebrated, many had said it would never happen in Chicago. Some thought they wouldn’t be implemented, and/or wouldn’t make a real impact. FDLA is very clear that the 3rd piece of this program for ending incommunicado detention  –access to the phones– is crucial. This was the first policy solution identified by young Black “Know Your Rights” volunteers in Englewood who in 2013 revealed why 99% of people are alone with police and prosecutors throughout their up-to-72 hour time under arrest. We also know that once more people access counsel, station-house lawyers can help identify and watchdog other needed reforms and interrupt the police code of silence. Perhaps most importantly, people directly affected by the many human rights violations associated with incommunicado detention have our support in the long-term to identify and lead the changes necessary to make the promises of Miranda and human rights doctine real.

This report back is part of that commitment. CPD’s cooperation demonstrates the power of community organizing backed by the FDLA hotline and now the Cook County Public Defenders. The effect of having an attorney at the station is clear, as demonstrated by what happened when we arrived to inspect the 6th district: police immediately moved someone in need of medical attention to a hospital. What would have happened had there been no one in the building but him and the police?


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