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Man detained more than 60 times by Chicago police because of mistaken identity now in court fight with city
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Man detained more than 60 times by Chicago police because of mistaken identity now in court fight with city

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Darren Cole

Darren Cole, who has been stopped more than 60 times by Chicago Police in 15 years because of a warrant mixup, at his Chicago home.

Days after Darren Cole went public last March about being detained by Chicago police more than 60 times because he shared a name with a man with a downstate warrant, the city helped clear the matter up.

But the cooperation did not last long.

Now the city of Chicago and Cole are embroiled in a more complicated and potentially protracted court fight over whether the department’s computer data system was to blame for the repeated stops. The Chicago man faced scrutiny for some 15 years because of an outstanding arrest warrant for another man named Darren Cole in Marion County.

Cole’s attorneys have argued that the department’s data system has been flagged by oversight agencies as “deficient and in need of reform” and that the database directly contributed to the repeat stops and accompanying fear and harassment the Cole in Chicago lived with.

Now city officials have countered in court filings that the repeated stops happened because the outstanding warrant for the downstate Cole was entered into a statewide database they have no control over. And when Chicago officers stopped Cole, they were performing their duties and “lawfully and constitutionally” detained him to investigate the warrant, the city argued.

“It is not clear what record-keeping deficiency of the city would have caused Cole’s repeated detention, since the database that caused the detention is a statewide database, and the entry in said database that led to his detention was not put there by the city of Chicago,” the city wrote in a filing. “Plaintiff alleges circumstances that are unfortunate, but that are not the fault of the defendant.”

The city also noted that Cole was released each time after “appropriate investigations.”

Cole has alleged that the repeated stops caused enormous stress in his work and personal life, telling the Tribune in March that he even contemplated taking his own life. In one stop, an officer pulled a gun on him, his lawsuit alleges. And because of his fear of getting stopped, Cole chose not to visit is his ailing father.

Cole struggled in vain over the years to secure a permanent solution, at one point carrying a handwritten note from a Chicago police sergeant to use during his stops. He also secured a letter from Marion County stating he is not the same Darren Cole wanted there.

Before filing the lawsuit in March, Cole’s attorneys also sent numerous emails to the city’s Law Department asking them to correct the problem in the system.

It was only after he filed his lawsuit and immediately before an emergency hearing that the city contacted Marion County officials, who withdrew the warrant. The city also sent a message to all officers indicating that Cole, 50, should not be stopped on that warrant, his attorneys noted in a court filing challenging the dismissal.

“The fact that the city quickly and with great ease remedied Mr. Cole’s injunctive claims when it was staring down the barrel of an emergency evidentiary hearing is worth noting,” reads a footnote in Cole’s latest motion challenging the city’s move to dismiss his suit.

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