Chicago teens coming home from concerts, ballgames or other ticketed events will be exempt from the city’s new curfew time if they can show documentation, like a ticket stub, as proof.
That’s according to the executive order made public Tuesday and signed by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot this week. It calls for “increased enforcement” of a new, 10 p.m. curfew, and directs police to hold non-compliant teens in custody – immediately prompting the ACLU of Illinois to criticize the order and consider legal action.
The city already has a curfew ordinance, with numerous other exemptions that Lightfoot’s law department says will remain in place in addition to the ticket event exemption. But that ordinance allows teens to stay out until 11 p.m. on the weekends, which Lightfoot’s executive order changes to 10 p.m., seven days a week.
Given the existing ordinance, the ACLU of Illinois has questioned the legality of the new policy.
“My initial read is that it has a number of serious flaws,” said ACLU attorney Alexandra Block. “Primarily, it doesn’t indicate any legal authority that the mayor has to amend the city code relating to curfews. That gives us significant concerns that she’s acting outside of her authority.”
According to the new executive order, police officers are being ordered to “immediately increase enforcement” of the new curfew — which will include using “de-escalation and dispersal tools” to educate kids into complying voluntarily.
The order directs officers to take those who do not comply into custody.
A minor would stay in police custody until their parent, guardian or “other adult having legal care or custody” picks them up, according to the order. It’s unclear if they’d be at risk of facing charges, and the Police Department did not answer questions about the course of action for teens who violate the curfew.
The ACLU of Illinois takes issue with that provision of the order, as well.
“If I’m interpreting this correctly, although it’s a bit unclear, what this executive order appears to contemplate is that police will indefinitely take custody of kids until a parent or guardian picks them up,” Block said. “Children may not have a parent or guardian immediately available. And this makes it sound like kids are going to be held indefinitely by the police, which is extremely concerning and may not be constitutional.”
To be exempt from the curfew, minors would need to show a ticket stub or wristband, with the name of the event printed on it, if stopped by police. Ticketed events include “civic, charitable, community-sponsored or neighborhood-sponsored, entertainment, sporting” or other events that are in compliance with the city’s laws, according to the order.
Chicago’s current curfew ordinance outlines numerous other exemptions already, including teens “involved in an emergency;” on the sidewalk near their home; attending an official school, religious or other recreational activity supervised by adults; or running errands as directed by their parent or guardian.
The ticketed event exemption would be in addition to those already in place, according to the city’s law department.
The order also states that the city has seen an increase in the “number and seriousness” of violent and property crimes committed by minors and that “the large number of minors who are permitted to remain in public places and establishments at night in the absence of adult supervision has, in part, caused this increase in crime.”
Lightfoot’s office did not immediately respond to a request for underlying data or evidence behind that assertion.
The order does not include details on Lightfoot’s new Millennium Park policy, which bans Chicago teens from the park after 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, unless they are with a “responsible adult.” Lightfoot announced the restriction on Sunday after 16-year-old Seandell Holliday was fatally shot near the city’s iconic Cloud Gate sculpture, often referred to as “The Bean.”
The mayor’s office has not responded to requests for documentation of that new policy.
Lightfoot on Monday declined to tell reporters how that new Millennium Park policy would be enforced, but criticized reporters for asking whether the city intends to arrest teens who are in the park past the new curfew.
“Why do you want to go to arresting children? We don’t want to arrest children,” Lightfoot said. “If we have to because they’re breaking the law, we will, but what we’ve seen in other areas of the city when issues have arisen is our officers talk to the young people, educate them about what the rules are, and in most instances, the young people disperse without any incident.”
The Chicago Police Department did not say how many times someone has been taken into custody for violating curfew in the past year and whether that led to charges.
In its letter to Chicago corporation counsel Celia Meza, the ACLU of Illinois warned that any curfew enforcement could disproportionately impact Black and brown Chicago kids, saying three in four curfew arrests were of Black Chicagoans during the week the city imposed a curfew following the murder of George Floyd.
After reviewing the mayor’s executive order, Block said she’s concerned this policy exempting teens who are coming only from “ticketed” events, will have a disproportionate impact on underserved teens.
“This could be enforced disproportionately against minority youth who are entitled to enjoy the free amenities that the city has to offer, including Millennium Park and the beaches, and who might not be able to pay to attend, you know, Lollapalooza or another ticketed event,” Block said.
The ACLU of Illinois also asked the city’s Law Department to outline the legal authority it’s relying on to enforce the Millenium Park restrictions.
On Monday, Lightfoot said a 2002 Supreme Court decision ruled that city officials can regulate the time, place and manner of access to the city’s parks.
Mariah Woelfel covers Chicago city government at WBEZ. You can follow her at @MariahWoelfel.