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Chicago police officers' misconduct files open to the public

Chicago Police Department
Chicago Police Department
Photo by Scott Paulson

Chicago is going to make internal investigation files regarding Chicago police officers’ misconduct cases open and available for the public’s viewing, according to a Fox News report on Sunday. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office made the revelation this weekend. The announcement of the decision came after having worked for a period of time to resolve litigation which focused on the city’s past policy of viewing police officers’ misconduct cases as personnel matters. Personnel matters, of course, are exempt under FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) laws and therefore are not made public. That had been the city’s policy for a long time.

The report asserts that Mayor Emanuel said that it is imperative to build trust and partnership between the residents of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department’s police officers. Emanuel says that this new policy of making internal investigation files of police misconduct cases public is a step forward in that effort of building trust and partnership. In light of the new policy, the Chicago Police Department will now release files in response to requests made via the Freedom of Information Act.

However, standard FOIA exemptions will reportedly be applied and there will be redactions so that investigations are not compromised. The standard FOIA exemptions include those pertaining to how burdensome the requests could be, and they will apply to all requests. Besides not wanting to interfere with cases, the records will be redacted to insure that no information is released that could compromise a witness’ confidentiality – including a witness’ name and the identities of complainants or informants.

According to the Chicago Tribune report on the new policy, city attorneys say that they decided not to continue litigation. The reason they chose not to go that route is because making the records public serves the good of the public. Chicago is now implementing the new policy after having worked with the Chicago Police Department and civil rights attorneys to settle litigation.