With the turnover occurring in the higher ranks of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) I thought it prudent to look at a forgotten battle going on in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The results of the case in question, Diane Bond, can be reviewed here, Kalven blog. A case is currently pending before the Appeals Court on whether or not to release the names of officers with 10 or more civilian complaints during a specific five-year period. The Chicago Police and the Daley administration have been fighting hard not to release the list with the officers’ names listed. Last summer prior to the vote on authorizing the creation of the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), the City released the list with the officers’ names redacted. Aldermen— who are the highest level of oversight over the police department in the city— requested the list. The lawyers working for the alderman, the corporation counsel, refused to release the list citing privacy concerns for the officers. The result, the aldermen have obtained outside counsel and are intervening in the Bond case to open the documents. This could only happen in Chicago, one branch of the city refusing to give information to another, one that is higher up on the food chain by the way. Maybe the alderman should pass an ordinance cutting funding immediately to the corporation counsel’s office until they hand over the full list. Today’ blog is about the arguments recently filed with the Appeals Court by the City still attempting to hide the officers’ names. I will take issue with many of their arguments and delineate how the lack of access to justice related information hampers oversight within the criminal justice system in Chicago. All quotes are from the following document: (REPLY BRIEF OF DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS) 1. “Thus, if this list were released in unredacted form, it would unfairly brand officers, by name, with unproven labels like the ones Kalven uses,” (page 9) This assumption is based on a faulty belief that the public cannot determine between legitimate allegations and false accusations. The Chicago Police Department has a sophisticated media management mechanism that can easily put forth arguments on behalf of wrongfully accused officers. On a daily basis press releases issued by the CPD end up in a verbatim form in the daily papers and on the nightly newscasts. An argument from the CPD that they lack the ability to fight an effective battle in the media is shallow at best. 2. “Indeed, the Alderman’s position in this court is that the need for disclosure outweighs officer privacy and other interests, and the Alderman stress that their constituents ask them for information that is contained in the materials,” (page 11). The question here is whether or not there is reason for citizens in a democracy to have access to the operations of a publicly funded agency that works on their behalf in their community. Additionally, this agency’s employees have license to use deadly force and restrain the liberty of citizens on mere suspicion. With the never ending continuation of scandals of police abuse for the last 100 years it might be time that citizens are up to data on the inner workings of the CPD. Community members trusted the department over the last twenty years and were victims of the following scandals for their trust: Marquette 10, Austin 7, Gangs – twice at least, Special Operations Section. I might have missed a couple it is so hard to keep track. Still now the City says they do not want to violate the privacy of officers, less they forget some of these officers have already violated the bodies and lives of community members on more than one occasion. How many times and which officers, the City does not want us to know. 3. “The Alderman have performed the functions they describe for decades, and have had a myriad tools at their disposal to acquire whatever information they actually need to do so,” (page 12). Seriously now, this quote must have been included to entertain the judges. What mechanisms do they have to gain the information they want? They have tried to ask their own lawyers and were rebuked because they ‘do not need to know.’ Could someone imagine the FBI telling the majority of congress that they are refusing to turn over a list because they do not need to know? Only in Chicago is such arrogance tolerated, Mara Georges and whoever else in the Corporation Counsel’s Office who refused to turn over this material should have been immediately terminated. I would fire any lawyer that worked for me that refused to give me information I asked for. This assumption is false on its face. 4. And, finally summary reports about complaints are open to public inspection, except to the extent the information in the reports is exempted by the Illinois FOIA, collective bargaining agreements, or other laws. (Page 13) This is a delicious piece of propaganda. Should the lawyers for the city not know when and if the Illinois FOIA – collective bargaining agreements – or other laws affect the release of the reports prior to filing this brief with the Court of Appeals? I thought I was the only one that got this legalized run-around when I sent in my FOIA requests. I did not know I was in the company of federal court appellate judges also. I feel much better about myself know. 5. “What is more, the City Council, like more legislative bodies, has long had the means to investigate the enforcement of ordinances, and the actions of municipal officers, agents, and employees,” (page 13) I would recommend rereading my earlier critiques as they apply readily to this assumption. No matter how many times the City states it, it simple is not true. 6. “The Alderman’s desire to have the CR files cannot possibly overcome the privacy and other concerns raised by releasing the officers’ personnel information, particularly in conjunction with their names, which we explain in our briefs,” (page 15-16) The City here is stating that the privacy concerns of the officers outweigh the right of citizens to know the history of complaints for the officers working in their communities. It seems relevant to me for people in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago to want to know if a particular officer working in their community has a history of abusing latino/a suspects. Just as it is relevant for residents of the Woodlawn neighborhood to know if a cop working in their community has a history of abusing blacks. 7. For its part, the FOP is squarely on our side, having filed an amicus brief in opposition to lifting the protective order. Having the Fraternal Order of Police on your side is not a positive for your side. The FOP is one of the main obstacles to Chicago putting into place a meaningful mechanism for accountability in this city. The FOP resists every effort the City makes to root out corrupt and abusive officers. If the FOP had the interests of the good cops at heart they would help the city create a mechanism to root out bad cops and policies, instead the organization has done the exact opposite. The FOP can be viewed as only a tool to enhance the opportunities for abuse and corruption in the ranks. Does my argument mean that I believe every accusation included in the complaints described here is legitimate, no. But just like people that are questioned in violent crime investigations and never charged because they had nothing to do with it, they will get over it and their life will continue much like before. Does the side effect of bad publicity mean that police should not investigate to make sure the individual did not have something to do with the crime, no. The issue of police accountability is no different. The public cannot trust that the City or the CPD really have the citizens’ interests at heart. They have never demonstrated such in the past, so why should we believe them this time?