from the maybe-if-you-had-better-cops,-you’d-have-fewer-burdensome-documents dept
The Chicago Police Department is one of the worst in the nation. There’s simply no denying this.
The Chicago PD ran its own black site for years, subjecting to arrestees to interrogations without access to legal counsel or notification of their families. Citizens effectively disappeared until the Chicago PD felt they had something worth booking them for. Only then would the paper trail begin and arrestees given access to their rights.
Police officers spent years screwing with recording equipment to ensure anything they didn’t want recorded wasn’t recorded. This resulted in only a couple of silent films being produced during the controversial shooting of Laquan McDonald. The surviving footage — the stuff that didn’t disappear because of a supposed “disk error” — contradicted the official narrative, even without the mysteriously-missing audio.
There’s more. Documents obtained through records requests shows thousands of misconduct investigations but very few punishments. The department used asset forfeiture funds to buy Stingray devices so it could bypass city government scrutiny of its surveillance tech purchases. Its gang database is a travesty even by gang database standards, filled with inaccuracies, sloppy paperwork, and a wholehearted lack of concern about the collateral damage it causes. And since it’s so great at handling present crime, the PD has decided to take on future crime with its predictive policing program — one that will allow cops to more proactively violate rights.
In the near future, we’ll get to learn even more details about the department’s awfulness. A FOIA lawsuit filed by a former inmate has resulted in a win for the general public.
In 2015, six years after his release, [Charles] Green filed a FOIA request with the city asking for copies of any and all closed complaint register files from 1967 to 2015. The request was made, Green’s attorney said, “in order to help him discover evidence of his innocence and to preserve and disseminate evidence of innocence to others wrongfully convicted.”
Judge Alison Conlon ordered the CPD to produce all files to Green by the end of 2020, noting that the CPD had “willfully and intentionally failed to comply” with the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.
Fifty years of complaints should be pretty enlightening. The document dump will be routed through the Invisible Institute, which has already done some great things with previous FOIA releases from law enforcement agencies.
The rollout probably won’t begin immediately, but the Chicago PD — which has only turned over about 100 files so far — has until the end of the year to fork over the remaining 174,900 responsive documents it says it has on hand. Right now, it seems to be focusing its energy on appealing the decision and complaining about how producing misconduct documents will somehow be unfair to the general public.
The City of Chicago is committed to the highest level of transparency and responds to tens of thousands of Freedom of Information Act requests every year, including requests regarding allegations against Chicago Police officers. This request is different, however, as it seeks every Complaint Register file created since 1967 – approximately 175,000 files, each of which contain dozens to hundreds of pages… Complying with this request would present numerous challenges, including millions of dollars in costs and expended public resources.
I think the city’s taxpayers will be fine with their money being used this way. Seems like exactly the sort of thing the public would benefit from — a welcome change from the terrible policing they’ve been funding for years.