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Anjanette Young Vows To Continue Fight For Search Warrant Reforms As City Approves $2.9 Million Settlement

The $2.9 million settlement ends a lawsuit Young brought against the city and police officers this year, but an ordinance named for her has stalled at City Council.

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CHICAGO — Chicago will pay Anjanette Young $2.9 million to settle a lawsuit over the botched raid of her home, but the social worker said she’ll continue her fight for search warrant reforms.

Nearly a year after video of the raid shocked the city and led to investigations and resignations in Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration, City Council unanimously approved the payment Wednesday.

Attorneys representing Young said Wednesday morning she “is looking forward to closing this painful chapter of her life.” But Young will continue to seek accountability for the officers involved in the raid and advocate for the “Anjanette Young Ordinance,” a measure that goes beyond search warrant reforms adopted by the Chicago Police Department this year. 

“From the very beginning of this horrific ordeal, Ms. Young’s continued focus has been on obtaining transparency and accountability for every officer who was involved in this violation of her home and her body that occurred on February 21, 2019,” her attorneys said in a statement. “Ms. Young was willing to allow herself to be viewed in this manner because it was important to her that the individuals who were responsible for this attack on her be held accountable.”

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
An attendee at a January 2021 rally for police accountability holds a sign reading “Protect Black Women – Justice for Anjanette Young.”

The Anjanette Young Ordinance would ban no-knock warrants, force officers to wait at least 30 seconds after knocking before entering a home, and require raids to be conducted between 9 a.m.-7 p.m. ‘absent exigent circumstances,’ among other requirements.

The ordinance was introduced by five Black alderwomen this year in the wake of the raid, but has not been called for a vote, although it was discussed during a hearing in July.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and some council members oppose the ordinance, saying it goes too far and could endanger officers who are serving a search warrant.

Lightfoot said in May the ordinance would “inhibit the ability of the department to respond nimbly to changing circumstances that might warrant quicker action than might be able to be done through a City Council process.”

After Wednesday’s meeting, Lightfoot said it would be a “very unusual departure” to have City Council “dictate policy for the police department.

“We’re open to the discussion, but the policy has been in place for some time and I feel confident that it’s the right policy,” she said.

Two alderpeople who co-sponsored the ordinance said Wednesday they’ll continue to fight for it in City Council.

Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) said the settlement represents the city acknowledging that “we did something wrong,” but said she’ll continue to push for reforms. 

“It’s our job to make sure that we’re raising the standard, that we’re encouraging, urging and pushing ourselves to do better,” she said. “We’re going to keep working with respect to… our policies and our practices so that we’re not here again with another resident in
six months or eight months.”

Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) said the multi-million settlement “may seem like a lot, but it will never give Ms. Young back the dignity and respect and trust that she lost for the people that she loved and respected in this city.”

“One of the things I remember her saying was it wasn’t just about money, it was about change in policy,” Taylor said. “I hope that we hear her.”

The Police Department reformed its search warrant policies this year. No-knock warrants are not banned but must be approved by a high-ranking Police official, only specially trained officers may serve warrants and at least one female officer must be present.

In February, Young sued the city, the Police Department and the 12 officers involved in the botched raid. The nine-count lawsuit alleges officers violated Young’s civil rights on the night of the incident and city officials, including Lightfoot, engaged in a conspiracy and cover up by denying the release of raid footage.

In a rare move, the proposed settlement was reviewed before the Finance Committee on Monday by the city’s top attorney, Meza. Meza’s nomination was briefly delayed this year by Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) and Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) who cited their frustration the city was continuing to try to dismiss the lawsuit.

Meza told the committee the $2.9 million was a “fair and just” offer and if the lawsuit were to go to a jury trial, it was “not unreasonable” to expect Young would seek $13-$16 million.

The city successfully got several counts of the lawsuit thrown out, but at issue in a jury trial would be whether a jury believed officers involved acted with “willful and wanton” intent, Meza said.

“The city has never disputed the Ms. Young suffered an indignity on February 19, 2019,” Meza said Monday. “And this settlement is presented to all of you in an attempt, at this state, to mitigate the potential risks of proceeding further in this case and also to provide Ms. Young and the city of Chicago closure on the events that took place.”

CBS Chicago aired footage of the February 2019 raid in a December 2020 broadcast. The raid, the result of a search warrant based on the bad tip of a single source, showed officers bursting through Young’s door seconds after knocking, then handcuffing Young and leaving her to stand naked in front of the all male police officers as she pleaded with them they were in the wrong home. 

Lightfoot’s administration fought unsuccessfully to block the news station from airing the footage. In the days after the footage aired, Lightfoot at first said she was unaware of the raid but a day later admitted her staff had alerted her to the raid via email a year earlier. 

Emails later released by the administration showed Lightfoot was sent an email by then deputy mayor for public safety, Susan Lee, that described the “pretty bad” raid in detail. 

“I have a lot of questions about this one,” Lightfoot wrote back, adding the city’s chief risk office, Tamika Puckett, onto the email chain. “Can we do a quick call about it?”

Lightfoot later said she did not ask the Law Department to attempt to block the footage from airing. Corporation counsel Mark Flessner and two department officials resigned amid the unfolding scandal. 

Lightfoot publicly and privately apologized to Young while her administration sought to dismiss Young’s lawsuit in court, leading Young to tell reporters in June she felt “betrayed” by the first term mayor. 

Young’s attorney, Keenan Saulter, said in June Young was offered a “take or leave it” offer of less than half of $2.5 million — the sum the city paid to settle a similar case — during a May 27 meeting with Meza and outside attorneys hired by the city to handle the case.

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability released a report of its investigation into the raid in November, recommending discipline for several officers, including that Sgt. Alex Wolinski should be fired. 

Those findings would “make it a little more difficult” for the city to defend the lawsuit, Meza said.

The city’s top watchdog conducted a separate investigation of the incident, including the actions of the Lightfoot administration handling of the aftermath of the raid. That report has been completed but not been released publicly. WTTW reported that Lightfoot rejected the report, saying “I don’t think that report is complete.”

Separately, Lightfoot appointed former federal judge Ann Claire Williams to investigate. That report has not been released. 

The Police Department has reformed its search warrant policy in the wake of the raid, but Young, some alderpeople and community activists have pushed the department to go further. The “Anjanette Young Ordinance,” which would codify search warrant reforms in the city’s municipal code, has not been called for a vote before City Council.

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