Big Victory For Transparency As Court Overturns Injunction Blocking Release Of Police Misconduct Records
CHICAGO— The Illinois Appellate Court lifted an injunction blocking the release of alleged police misconduct records.
Today’s ruling marks a big victory for transparency and accountability.
The ruling comes after the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune filed suit after requests for a variety of records related to alleged police misconduct were denied in 2014.
The Better Government Association (BGA) filed an amicus brief in support of releasing the police misconduct records. The BGA’s court filing, from February 10, 2016, states: "(It’s) the right of the public to access information about its government, and specifically, to know about and analyze allegations of misconduct made against police officers and how those allegations are handled by those in power."
The Attorney General of Illinois, and author Jamie Kalven and journalist John Conroy also filed amicus briefs in support of the media outlets.
The BGA is pleased with the outcome and hails the ruling by the Illinois Appellate Court as a victory for transparency and accountability. Through the ruling, the court found that neither the union contract nor the Personnel Records Review Act allow or require the city to withhold the records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Matt Topic, an attorney with the BGA and Loevy & Loevy, said, “One of the critical parts of the decision is a holding that a private contract with the government cannot be used as a basis to withhold records that would otherwise need to be produced under FOIA”.
The injunction was entered by a circuit court judge following a request from police unions as a response to two media outlets requesting copies of various Chicago Police misconduct records. The requests from the media outlets were made through the FOIA. The media outlets, and the City of Chicago, appealed the injunction to the appellate court, who reversed it.
As a result of this issue, the BGA also partnered with State Representative La Shawn Ford and allies across the state to create House Bill 6266a3, a bill that would preserve Chicago Police misconduct records. Our coalition of allies and advocates believe the destruction of those records would impair our ability to investigate patterns of misconduct that unfold over time, and trends that relate to police policies. Destroying the records would also rob us of the ability to distinguish between an exemplary record and a questionable one.