On Tuesday, May 22nd the Chicago Justice Project filed took their transparency fight to court by filing a 10 complaint in state court against the Chicago Police Department for widespread violations of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. The complaint details a pattern by the Department of either completely ignoring requests or only providing minimal information in response to requests.
In fulfilling its mission CJP seeks to open access to large multi-year data sets. Two of the requests in our lawsuit that the CPD basically ignored target this type of data regarding crime incident and arrest data. While there is some data available on both these categories the CPD is in fact withholding meaningful data from the public that would allow for just the type of sophisticated analysis about disparities in response to crime and violence that the City and the CPD does not want anyone doing.
We sent in two requests that deal specifically with the plan by the CPD and the Mayor to hire an additional 1,000 officers. When the Mayor announced his plan to make the hires CPD officials held briefings with alderman. When asked at one of those meetings about the plan CPD officials told alderman “they did a top to bottom analysis” that detailed the number of officers they would need and where they were needed. In response to these statements CJP sent in a FOIA request asking for a copy of any analysis the CPD completed regarding the plan to hire the officers. We also submitted a FOIA regarding emails between top CPD officials on the topic of their hiring plan. Both FOIA requests were ignored by the CPD.
The remaining six requests cover the following:
- Michael Bromwich Report – Michael Bromwich is a consultant hired by the City to review CPD training and issue a report
- Domestic Violence Database – ABC 7 News did a story based on a domestic violence database they had obtained from the CPD. We requested a copy of the same database.
- Academy & Hire Numbers – CJP requested per month numbers on the number of newly hired police officers and the number of individuals that entered and completed the academy.
- Staffing by District 2000-2017 – The CPD partially fulfilled this request but only to 2008.
- IAD Data – CJP requested all available data maintained by the Internal Affairs Division related to complaints against officers and the subsequent investigation.
- OEMC Call for Service Data – Sources informed CJP that the CPD maintains call for police service data that was originally created by the Office of Emergency Management & Communications.
The Chicago Police Department has a long history of outright ignoring or at the least barely complying with their obligations under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. This lawsuit hopes to force open large data sets from the CPD in hopes that this newly found openness will become their everyday practice rather than a infrequent accident.
It is clear that justice system stakeholders have a great need for this data. Clearly it will provide us a window in to the operations of the CPD as well as definitively detail where and when their practices are applied unevenly across communities and race lines. This fight is not just ours but is instead fought for the people of Chicago in hopes that greater transparency will create a more just system and in turn foster a better relationship between the justice system and communities.
You can read a copy of our complaint click here: CJP v. CPD (2018) – Filed complaint.