City Makes Police Misconduct Files Public

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jul 30, 2014 9:55PM

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Disgraced former Chicago Police officer Jerome Finnigan
The City of Chicago on Tuesday released the names of 662 police officers who racked up more than 10 misconduct complaints between May 2001 and May 2006. This so-called “repeater list” is groundbreaking in that it marks the first time the city has made police misconduct files public and is seen as a vital beginning toward creating meaningful police accountability.

Among the repeat offenders are Jerome Finnigan and Keith Herrera of the now-disbanded Special Operations Section. Finnegan was the real-life Vic Mackey at the center of a corruption scandal involving the section. He admitted to taking part in five robberies that netted $600,000 between 2004 and 2005 from alleged drug dealers and others during illegal traffic stops by SOS members. Finnigan later pleaded guilty to, then said he was innocent of, plotting to have Herrera killed because he believed Herrera would testify against him.

Herrera and Finnigan received a combines 105 misconduct complaints during the five-year span and, except for a 2003 incident in which Herrera received a reprimand, the Police Department took no action in any of the complaints. Herrera, Finnigan and two other members of the SOS, Raymond Piwincki and Michael Connolly, were among the top five officers with multiple misconduct charges. Piwincki received 55 and Connolly 50.

The city only agreed to make the files public 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.” The city will use standard Freedom of Information Act exemptions to redact some information, including those pertaining to ongoing investigations and confidential witnesses, and may also reject releasing some files because they could be deemed “overly burdensome.”

The legal battle over the list began when independent journalist Jamie Kalven 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. Kalven has uploaded the files for public view here.