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Rahm Backs Policy To Share All New Police Shooting Evidence Online Within 60 Days

By Sam Stecklow in News on Feb 17, 2016 4:20PM

via Getty Images

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Task Force on Police Accountability issued a series of recommendations Tuesday designed to build trust in the police and the police accountability system in Chicago. The recommendations include making all evidence, including videos, from police-involved incidents available online within 60 days, including evidence for currently-open investigations. There is an option for the police to extend the time by 30 days.

In a statement, Emanuel embraced the recommendations, saying, "Simply put, the longstanding policy the City followed for decades is out of date and this new policy strikes a better balance of ensuring transparency for the public while also ensuring any criminal or disciplinary investigations are not compromised."

He told the Tribune, "[The task force] helped the city take a bold step forward, in a comprehensive way, to establish the rules going forward that are clear to everybody." The Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates police-involved shootings, is planning on releasing all its evidence in accordance with these recommendations. Currently, IPRA just releases its reports after an investigation has been closed—which take an average of 328 days according to a report commissioned by Emanuel. The city ordinance that originally created IPRA, replacing the CPD's Office of Professional Standards, allowed the agency six months to close each case.

Civil rights lawyers argue that the video should be released within 48 hours. "[Video] protects the truth," Jon Loevy of Loevy & Loevy told the Tribune. "If the police haven't done anything wrong, it corroborates that."

The task force, announced in the wake of Superintendent Garry McCarthy's firing, was originally met with criticisms that another blue-ribbon task force to reform the police—the third since 1997—would allow Emanuel to sweep the issue under the rug.

However, Samuel Walker, professor emeritus of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and an expert in police accountability, says these recommendations, and the mayor's approval, are a genuine step forward.

"There should be a policy on releasing information as early as possible; I think openness is all for the good," he told Chicagoist. "There's been too much secrecy, resulting in distrust." He said that he didn't anticipate the release of evidence to compromise open investigations.

University of Chicago law professor Craig Futterman, who was instrumental in the case to release thousands of police misconduct complaints, described the policy to the Tribune as "baby steps" and said, "It really is the time for bold action."