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Investigative Alerts Deemed Unconstitutional by Appellate Court

For years, Chicago Police Officers have used “investigative alerts” to detain and arrest those that the Chicago Police Department suspected had committed a crime. These alerts were issued by the police department internally and came up when someone’s name was run in the police’s database.[1] Two different types of alerts existed, one titled “Investigative Alert/Probable Cause to Arrest” and the other “Investigative Alert/No Probable Cause to Arrest.”[2] The former allowed police to arrest an individual without a warrant, as the police department had enough probable cause to arrest them. The latter instructed police officers to interview this person for further information, but the individual was not to be arrested, as the police department had no probable cause.[3]

This practice has been heavily criticized by attorneys and activists, who have pointed out problems with the practice’s constitutionality and impact on the lives of Chicagoans.[4] These alerts can be issued without a neutral judicial review of probable cause, and that can have its consequences. Frank Craig was falsely arrested on an investigative alert.[5] This alert under his name was issued after a rental car registered to a Jane Craig was used in an armed robbery, and detectives found she shared an address with a man named Frank Craig in California.[6] Investigators then sought to find a Frank Craig in Chicago to link to the robbery, without looking further into California records.[7] The Frank Craig they were looking for had died two years before the robbery in question even occurred.[8] An investigative alert was eventually issued for Frank Craig’s arrest in Chicago, and he was arrested and jailed for two months before being released.[9] He ended up filing suit against the City of Chicago for this false arrest, and the City settled for half a million dollars.[10]

While the investigative alert practice was used by the Chicago Police Department, its constitutionality was challenged.[11] Since 2012, over 155 cases in the state of Illinois, in both federal and state courts, mentioned investigative alerts.[12] Yet throughout all of those cases, no court had definitively found investigative alerts unconstitutional. The closest the Illinois Supreme Court came was in Justice Salone’s concurrence in the 2012 case, People v. Hyland.[13] In his concurrence, Justice Salone lays out the importance of a neutral and detached judge as the finder of probable cause,[14] and states that investigative alerts allow police officers to “side-step judicial review.[15] He ends his concurrence calling for an end to investigative alerts.[16] While this concurrence gave activists and critics of investigative alerts more support for their arguments, nothing in practice changed.

Yet recently, the Illinois Appellate Court, issued its ruling in People v. Bass. In this case, Mr. Bass was arrested based solely on the issuance of an investigative alert.[17] Three weeks after a sexual assault occurred, Mr. Bass ran a red light and was arrested after police officers ran his name in their system.[18] In his appeal, the court analyzed the constitutionality of investigative alerts under the Illinois Constitution,[19] concluding that in ordinary cases, a warrant must be issued before an arrest can be made, and the issuance of and subsequent arrests based on an investigative alert violates that rule.[20]

The Court came to this conclusion after a long analysis of the Illinois Constitution and its intent. The Court first discusses that Illinois follows a limited lockstep approach to the U.S. Constitution, meaning that the U.S. Constitution and its interpretation is given “primacy” but the Illinois Constitution is analyzed “for any gap-filling potential it may have.”[21] Because of this relationship between the Illinois and U.S. Constitutions, the Court in its analysis can and does find that Article I, Section 6 of the Illinois Constitution affords individuals greater protection than the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.[22] The court compares the text of these two sections, pointing out that the 4th Amendment states “no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation” while the Illinois Constitution states that “no warrant shall issue without probable cause, supported by affidavit.”[23] This language was set out in the 1870 Illinois Constitution, and soon after it was established, the Illinois Supreme Court found that using the word affidavit “was a step beyond the constitution of the United States.”[24] This language has stayed in place throughout the various iterations of the Illinois Constitution and the same language was adopted at the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention, which gave us the modern Illinois Constitution.[25] Due to the need for an affidavit to issue in order to establish probable cause, not just an officer’s or other’s oath or affirmation, the system of investigative alerts is violative of the Illinois Constitution.

Since this ruling, the Chicago Police Department has stopped issuing investigative alerts[26] and all of those in the system are suspended.[27] This has an impact on day to day police activity and investigation and many officers called for this decision to be appealed.[28] The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office is filing a petition for the appellate court to rehear the case.[29] Either the Appellate Court will rehear the case, or the State’s Attorney will have to appeal it to the Illinois Supreme Court, who may finally have to confront the constitutionality of investigative alerts.



[1] People v. Bass, 2019 IL App (1st) 160640, ¶1.

[2] Id. at ¶31

[3] Id.

[4] Joe Mahr & Steve Schmadeke, Chicago Police Criticized for Bypassing Warrant Process to Make Arrests Using ‘Investigative Alerts’, Chi. Trib. (Mar. 3, 2013),

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] People v. Hyland, 2012 IL App (1st) 110966.

[12] People v. Bass, 2019 IL App (1st) 160640 at ¶ 94.

[13] People v. Hyland, 2012 IL App (1st) 110966 at ¶ 38.

[14] Id. at ¶ 47.

[15] Id. at ¶ 51.

[16] Id. at ¶ 52.

[17] People v. Bass, 2019 IL App (1st) 160640 at ¶1.

[18] Id. at ¶ 8.

[19] Id. at ¶ 39.

[20] Id. at ¶ 62.

[21] Id. at ¶ 40.

[22] Id. at ¶ 43.

[23] Id. at ¶ 49.

[24] Id. at ¶ 50-52 (quoting Lippman v. People, 175 Ill. 101 (1898)).

[25] Id. at ¶ 65.

[26] Megan Crepeau, Court Decision Rebuffs Common Tool Used by Chicago Police in Many Arrests for Shootings, Chi. Trib. (June 30, 2019),

[27] Adam Mahoney, Cook County to Appeal Ruling Finding Chicago Police Investigative Alerts Unconstitutional, Chi. Reporter (July 26, 2019),

[28] Id.

[29] Id.