Chicago Probation Officers Accused of Warrantless Searches

While all United States citizens are guaranteed their constitutional rights, at times the rights of criminals can be forgotten. The Chicago Tribune recently published an investigation finding that the city's Adult Probation Department has been going against the very protocol they are expected to uphold, and possibly disregarding probationers' rights. In coordination with law enforcement and the FBI, the department has been searching probationers' homes without warrants; in some cases, these searches have led to accusations and threats of jail time. Even if these individuals have committed a crime, it is not acceptable to think that they should not be given the basic rights of all other citizens.

Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans has hired a law firm to investigate the validity of the allegations against the Probation Department. One officer being investigated closely is Deputy Chief Phillippe Loizon, a veteran probation officer; Evans has asked that the legal counsel determine whether he participated in "improper search and seizure". Loizon has not offered any comments about the accusations or the investigation. As Evans put it, if the allegations are true, this behavior would be a "blatant disregard of [the] constitutional rights" of those probationers in question.

While probation officers are permitted by law in many cases to enter a probationers' home without a warrant, the Tribune reports that "the FBI and police have assisted probation officers during searches, gaining access to homes where they might otherwise need a court-ordered warrant". So, instead of following policy and procedure and constitutional constraints, taking the time to obtain the proper warrant, probation officers may have used networking to circumvent any obstacles to conducting a search. In addition to the possibility that they are violating probationers' rights, this could result in police offering unusable evidence in court (because it has been obtained illegally) and could create opportunity for lawsuits against the CPD.

It has become alarmingly apparent that Chicago's Probation Department does not have very clear or thorough guidelines for proper searches, nor do they train officers in properly acquiring and utilizing informants. In fact, some probationer's claimed to have been pressured to become informants using unethical threats and promises. It is unclear for certain what protocol the department has or has not been following (the investigation began in late May and is expected to take 60 days), but it is clearly time to find out.