The city of Chicago will make police misconduct investigation files available to the public after city attorneys decided not to continue the legal battle over their release.
Previously the city could keep the files away from the public by classifying the investigations as “personal matters,” which are exempt under Freedom of Information Act laws. An independent journalist appealed for the release of the misconduct information, and he won a ruling in the state appeals court. The appellate court decided the investigations could no longer remain secret, and although the city could have appealed the case to the Illinois Supreme Court, they decided not to pursue it.
Skeptics might say the city attorneys knew they would likely lose the case at the state’s highest level, while others say the city is willing to open the investigation files because it has nothing to hide.
“The city of Chicago had the option to continue to litigate this matter, but ultimately we concluded that — with proper safeguards in place — it will serve a greater public good to allow these investigations to be subject to open records laws,” city attorney Steve Patton said.
Going forward, citizens who want to obtain copies of police misconduct investigation files will need to file a Freedom of Information Act request. Not every file will be readily and completely available though. Standard FOIA exemptions will still apply and requests may be delayed if there are a large number of requests. Certain information including witness testimony may be redacted in the public files to ensure witness secrecy isn’t compromised.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel said the movement will help build a better relationship between authorities and citizens.
“It is imperative to build trust and partnership between residents and the police. And this new policy is a step forward in that effort,” Emanuel said.
Paul Edlund Comments
I’m glad Chicago is opening up their files to the public. Citizens should have the right to information about police misconduct investigations.
This is very similar to the idea of police wearing body cameras. If you know a third party may look into the incident, you’re much more likely to report the details as they occurred, not as you want them to look like they occurred.
Related source: Herald-Review
A professor at Arizona State University claims she was abused and treated disrespectfully in an incident that ended with her arrest for resisting arrest, aggravated assault, failing to provide identification and obstructing a public thoroughfare.
The incident occurred in May but has just recently gained national attention after the dash cam video was released. Video of the incident show Officer Stewart Ferrin viciously throwing Ersula Ore to the ground after she questioned why the officer repeatedly spoke to her in a tone she found disrespectful. You can see video of the incident below.
Ore didn’t do herself any favors after the authorities picked her up off the ground, as she kicked an officer as he reached near an intimate area while attempting to fix the professor’s dress. Ore’s attorney said she was simply reacting to the officer’s inappropriate touch.
“No woman should have to submit to an officer’s inappropriate touch,” said Alane Roby.
Ore faced four charges as a result of the incident, but yesterday three of the charges were dropped after she pled guilty to resisting arrest, a misdemeanor offense. Officer Ferrin has been placed on administrative leave while the FBI investigates if any civil-rights violations occurred during the arrest.
Police Brutality attorney Paul Edlund said it can be difficult for a citizen to remain calm in a situation where they feel their rights have been violated.
“Just because you feel like your rights have been violated does not mean you should make the situation worse by becoming verbally or physically abusive,” said Edlund. “Resisting gives the cop an out.”
“This is the type of case that escalates quickly and unnecessarily,” Edlund added. “Obviously the officer did not know that he was dealing with a college professor. Had he known he might have approached the situation differently. What irks me is that nowhere during the altercation did the officer attempt to defuse the situation, which they are trained to do. Instead he met passive resistance with brute force. I’m glad Ore was able to get off with only a misdemeanor, but I certainly hope the cop undergoes additional training, otherwise the situation is bound to repeat itself.”
Related source: AZ Central