CHICAGO—Chicago Police said they shot and killed a 29-year-old reputed gang member last month on the West Side after the man tried to flee and wounded three police officers, according to news reports.
The Better Government Association asked the police department for copies of any reports and videos related to the shooting, to corroborate the official account.
But CPD refused to turn over anything, violating the spirit of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s pledge for greater transparency in the wake of the Laquan McDonald outcry – and the letter of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, which requires that public records be turned over to the public and press upon request.
As a result, the BGA has filed a lawsuit against the police department, the fifth legal action the BGA has taken against CPD since 2014 for violating the state’s transparency law.
“It’s totally unacceptable that CPD continues to delay or deny the release of records, including videos,” says Andy Shaw, the BGA’s president and CEO. “Mayor Emanuel has said he wants to rebuild trust in the department. One of the best ways to do that is to be transparent.”
Citing FOIA, the BGA asked the police department for “copies of any and all records, reports and dash cam videos relating to the fatal police involved shooting of Lamar Harris,” who was killed on March 14.
The police department denied the request March 31 on the basis that the Independent Police Review Authority, a government agency that probes police shootings, is engaged in an ongoing investigation and that the release of any video and other records would allegedly harm IPRA’s investigation.
In its lawsuit, the BGA contends that a FOIA exemption only applies when release of the records would “interfere with active administrative enforcement proceedings conducted by the public body that is the recipient of the request.”
IPRA is a separate agency – not part of CPD.
And CPD’s argument that release of the video would interfere with the investigation falls flat since CPD already released a detailed account of its version of events.
The bottom-line: The law requires CPD to turn over the requested materials, according to the new BGA lawsuit, which was filed April 7 in Cook County Circuit Court.
On March 18, the BGA sued the police department for refusing to turn over copies of records and videos of all other officer-involved fatal shootings since 2011. In that case, the BGA made multiple attempts to work with CPD to resolve things before resorting to litigation.
Matt Topic (773) 368-8812