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City To Make Police Misconduct Files Public

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jul 14, 2014 8:30PM

Convicted corrupt Chicago Police officer Jerome Finnigan
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office announced Sunday that the city would soon make internal investigation files regarding police misconduct open to the public. Emanuel, in a release to media, attempted to spin this announcement as a bold step in open data but the city only agreed to do so after it decided not to appeal a lower court’s decision on releasing the records to the Illinois Supreme Court. City spokeswoman Shannon Breymaier told the Sun-Times she believed the city’s argument was strong and valid “but we decided this comes in line with our efforts to build relationships between the public and police department and improve transparency.”

Don’t expect to see everything in the investigation notes, either. The City will use standard Freedom of Information Act exemptions to redact some information, including those pertaining to ongoing investigations and confidential witnesses. The City may also reject releasing some files because they could be deemed “overly burdensome.” A city spokesman said, for example, requesting “CR” files for a calendar year serves as an example of “overly burdensome.” Files would be released as investigations are completed.

The about face by the city comes after a March decision ruled in favor of independent journalist and activist Jamie Kalven, who requested to see “CR” and “RL” (repeat offender) files. A three-judge panel of the Illinois Appeals Court ruled those files were not exempt from FOIA Requests. The city has been working with civil rights attorneys and the Police Department to settle the lawsuit.

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said in a statement, “By allowing access to these records, the Chicago Police Department will further demonstrate that it takes allegations of police misconduct seriously.” Craig B. Futterman, clinical professor of law at the University of Chicago and founder of the school's Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project, said, "we applaud the policy sea change on this matter brought about by the Emanuel administration."