On January 5, 1976, Judge Prentice Marshall issued the final decision in a series of consolidated cases challenging the employment practices of the Chicago Police Department as discriminatory against minorities and women in hiring, promotion, assignment and discipline.
In the late 1950s, when African Americans were 25% of the population of Chicago, Blacks represented 25% of the police force. By 1968, the year of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination, only 15% of the force was African American, at a time when the overall Black population was approaching 35%. The Afro-American Patrolmen's League was founded that year, and began to document complaints from Black policemen about severe discrimination in assignments and discipline, and to investigate why members of the Black community, who continued to apply for acceptance to the police force in the same numbers, were being turned away in disproportionate numbers.
In 1973, the Afro-American Patrolmen's League, under the leadership of Howard Saffold and Renault Robinson, initiated their challenge to the Chicago Police Department's employment practices. With representation from Schiff Hardin & Waite, they filed Camacho v. City of Chicago challenging the entrance requirements, including the routine medical exam that turned up an extraordinary number of mysterious heart murmurs among minority applicants. Robinson v. Conlisk, filed by Kirkland & Ellis, challenged disciplinary, job assignment, and promotion practices. The outcome of Robinson v. Simon, handled by lawyers in Kirkland & Ellis' Washington D.C. office, was the impounding of Chicago's annual $95 million in federal revenue sharing funds. The regulations prohibited discrimination in any federally funded program, and in Chicago, almost 75% of these funds had been allocated to the Police Department. U. S. v. City of Chicago, filed by the U.S. Department of Justice charged the City, the Police Department, and the Civil Service Commission with racial and sex discrimination.
The trial on the merits of the cases was held from March through May, 1975. Judge Marshall's final decision in the case held that the City had "knowingly discriminated against women, blacks and Hispanics in the employment of police officers and that the most effective remedy to cure that constitutional malaise is the economic sanction of withholding revenue sharing funds until [they] meet the affirmative requirements of the decree entered pursuant to this decision." Early rulings in these cases included a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Chicago Police Department from hiring and promoting employees from the challenged officers' and sergeants' eligibility lists; an order prohibiting the disbursal of revenue sharing funds to the city of Chicago; and a 1975 order to hire 200 persons pursuant to the 1974 interim hiring order which required, among other things, that 50% of the next 600 officers hired be minority males.
The impact of this litigation on the Chicago Police Department was substantial. This case represented the first time the Chicago Police Department was required to justify its employment practices to a federal district judge. By 1970, 33% of Chicago's population was African American. In the years 1971-1973, African Americans comprised roughly 10% of new hires by the Chicago Police Department. By 1975, as a direct result of the lawsuit, Blacks comprised 40 % of new hires, and throughout the period 1975-1990, the hiring share averaged 32%.
The litigation of this case continued well into to the 1980's with an ever changing cast of lawyers. However, throughout the many stages of the case both Kirkland & Ellis and Schiff Hardin dedicated extraordinary effort and commitment. In particular, the Chicago Lawyers' Committee recognizes the extraordinary dedication and effort of Frank Cicero, Jr., Thomas A. Gottschalk, John P. Wilson, Jr., Gary M. Elden, James M. Johnstone, Valerie A. Leopold, Robin P. Charleston, Reginald L. Tucker, Thomas O. Kuhns and Margaret A. Daley of Kirkland and Ellis; and Michael L. Meyer and Barry S. Alberts of Schiff Hardin. The executive director of the Chicago Lawyers' Committee when the cases were filed was Robert C. Howard, and he continued to contribute to the cases while at BPI and ACLU. Bob remains a member of the Chicago Lawyers' Committee today. Representing the United States were Ilana D. Rover, then an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the N.D. of Illinois, and Donald Pailen, Francis R. Cronin and Elaine C. Afable, all from the U.S. Department of Justice. Governor James Thompson was United States Attorney for the Northen District of Illinois when the lawsuit was tried.
Chicago is known around the world for its community activists, as well as the adage that "you can't fight City Hall." While the discriminatory practices common within urban police departments in the early 1970s could have been challenged in many other American cities, the battle was fought in Chicago. Continuing in the path forged by Saul Alinsky and Timuel Black, Renault Robinson and Howard Saffold and the members of the Afro-American Patrolmen's League, with dignity and forbearance, stood firm in the face of extreme racism and harassment, and changed the face of the City's workforce forever.
EOP persuaded the Illinois Department of Human Rights to redact the names of workers who sue for arrest record discrimination from the IDHR’s published opinions. The IDHR’s publication of the workers’ names and the details of their arrests had deterred workers from complaining of arrest record discrimination.