Misconduct records of Chicago police officers may be destroyed

CHICAGO — How do you make sure police officers are held accountable if most of their full disciplinary records are no longer available?

That question is at the center of what might be the next big battle brewing over police accountability across the country, and specifically in Chicago.

The recent release of videos showing deadly shootings of black citizens by white police officers in Chicago has many demanding police accountability and has led to a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the patterns and practices of the Chicago Police Department.

And now, there is a legal fight over the destruction of police misconduct records dating back to 1967, the very records that could help the Justice Department review patterns of police misconduct.

The Fraternal Order of Police is demanding that the city of Chicago destroy all police misconduct records more than 5 years old, arguing that keeping them is a breach of its bargaining agreement with the city. The agreement, which is effective from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2017, says in part: “All disciplinary investigation files, disciplinary history card entries, IPRA (Independent Police Review Authority) and IAD (Internal Affairs Division) disciplinary records, and any other disciplinary record or summary of such records other than records related to Police Board cases, will be destroyed five (5) years after the date of the incident.” If the complaint involves alleged excessive force, it is to be destroyed after seven years, according to the contract.

“You want to talk about a bonfire, stuff going up in smoke,” says University of Chicago law professor Craig Futterman.

Futterman has been fighting for the release of police misconduct records for more than a decade and recently won the release of a small data set, which includes citizen complaints for things like excessive use of force, illegal searches and unlawful arrests. Futterman made the complaints available to the public in a searchable online database.

“The good news is that most police officers were not abusing people, the vast majority of the officers had very few complaints throughout the bulk of their careers,” Futterman says. “But then there was a small percent who got extraordinary numbers of complaints.”

For example, a search for Jason Van Dyke, the officer charged with the first-degree murder in the killing of Laquan McDonald, shows that he had 19 complaints before he fatally shot the teen, including 10 for use of force. The officer who shot and killed Cedrick Chatman has 30 complaints in the system, including 10 for use of force. None of the complaints, for either officer, resulted in disciplinary action. Van Dyke’s attorney says his client feared for his life in his encounter with McDonald. The Chatman shooting was ruled justified.

Futterman and journalist Jamie Kalven are asking for the release of all the police misconduct records, which date back to 1967, when the department first started keeping track of citizen complaints.

Chicago wants to make it clear that the city “opposes the destruction of police disciplinary records.”

“Our longstanding position is that these records have an administrative and legal purpose that warrants preservation, and we will continue our legal efforts to maintain and preserve these records,” a statement from the city says.

The Fraternal Order of Police declined CNN’s request for comment, saying the matter is still in litigation. But the FOP did grant CNN affiliate WLS an interview recently.

“I don’t understand why a 77-year-old retirees’ complaint in 1967 needs to be on a database,” Dean Angelo, FOP president, told the station.

But Futterman disagrees, saying, “It’s not just about history. It’s about who is currently working. And it shows also the cost of the failure to address patterns of abuse.”

A call for action

That’s exactly why the issue should also be fought on a local level in every city, says Samuel Walker, a police accountability expert and a criminal justice professor at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

He says the issue has been hidden in plain sight, and now is the time for change.

“(Unions) are a strong force because they’ve never had any opposition on these issues,” Walker says. “Nobody has framed the issue in the terms we are discussing that they are special privileges, other people don’t get them.”

Many different types of purge clauses appear in some police contracts nationwide. Until the Cleveland Police Department entered into a consent decree with the Department of Justice, its contract said that disciplinary actions or penalties should be removed after two years.

But Walker says officers’ bills of rights and police contracts didn’t begin to get attention until the scrutiny of police after the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. The outrage centered on the fact that investigators were required to allow 48 hours before questioning officers about possible misconduct.

“They really haven’t gotten public attention, and that has really changed since Baltimore,” he says. “But I think it’s going to come up a lot more. We’ve really reached a critical turning point, and there’s some momentum already built up.”

Some police union contracts allow for officers to file paperwork asking for unfounded claims to be expunged after certain periods of time. But even then, Walker says, police departments shouldn’t be allowed to expunge the records.

“What we have begun to learn in Chicago is they do a lousy job of investigating (those complaints),” he says. “You can’t use their bad performance as evidence to say the complaint was unfounded. The problems begin to compound each other.”

While the court fight with the Fraternal Order of Police moves through the court system, the Chicago Police Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents higher-ranking officers, joined in the fight for the destruction of records. It took its grievance about the failure to purge to arbitration with the city of Chicago, and on November 4, an arbitrator decided in favor of the association.

A judge determined that the city of Chicago “shall not take any steps to delete or destroy any complaint incident data or underlying complaint register files, without providing two weeks’ notice to all parties to these cases.”

“I appeared in court on this seeking an emergency order to stop the destruction, to stop the bonfire of records, and I got a Band-Aid,” Futterman says.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan told CNN by email that as part of the Justice Department investigation, “it should have the opportunity to determine whether the records are needed.”

“Common sense would dictate that any records that may be helpful for an investigation should be preserved,” she said.

Meanwhile, Walker hopes the attention the fight in Chicago is getting could help local activists and politicians challenge unions when contracts are up next. Before, they focused on salaries and pensions, because nobody was shouting for them to look at anything else.

“It’ll be a long haul. It’ll be difficult,” Walker says of working to change contracts. “Unions will fight and scream. But I think there’s enough momentum to change the tide.”

ad-high_impact_4
News
Tate Elementary shows academic progress after categorical funding
Students at Tate Elementary in Las Vegas has benefited from a program to boost education funding in targeted student populations, known as categorical funding. One program called Zoom helps students who have fallen below grade level in reading. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Three Square helps TSA workers
Three Square Food Bank donated over 400 care bags to TSA workers affected by the government shutdown Wednesday, filled with food, personal hygiene products and water.
Las Vegas furniture store donates to Clark County firehouses
Walker Furniture donated new mattresses to all 30 Clark County firehouses in the Las Vegas Valley, starting today with Station 22. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mount Charleston Gets Heavy Snow, Fog
Mount Charleston saw heavy snow today, and fog in lower elevations as a cold front swept across the Las Vegas Valley. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Krystal Whipple arrested in Arizona
Krystal Whipple, charged in the killing of a Las Vegas nail salon manager over a $35 manicure, is expected to return to Nevada to face a murder charge.
Holocaust survivor on acceptance
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, talks about the most important message for people to understand from her life and experiences.
Holocaust survivor speaks about telling her story
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, tells of opening up about her experiences during Sunday’s event at Temple Sinai.
Jesus Jara State of the Schools address
Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara delivers his State of the Schools address on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Michael Naft sworn in to Clark County Commission
Michael Naft, chosen by Gov. Steve Sisolak to be his replacement on the Clark County Commission, was sworn into office on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Opening Party in Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace
CES conventioneers packed Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace, and let loose as they danced to DJs into the night. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas police piecing together details of fatal shooting
Six hours after the fact, Las Vegas homicide detectives worked to reconstruct the scene of a shooting early Jan. 7 that left one man dead in the southeast valley. (Rio Lacanlale/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dyer Lawrence explains college football playoff system proposal
Las Vegan Dyer Lawrence has a new idea for a college football playoff system that includes a unique scheduling component called National Call Out Day. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Death row inmate Scott Dozier found dead in his cell
Nevada death row inmate Scott Dozier is dead. Dozier’s death ends his legal odyssey, which began in 2007 when he was convicted in the 2002 murder of Jeremiah Miller, but does little to clarify what’s next for Nevada’s death penalty.
I-15 southbound near Primm closed after ‘major crash’
A rollover crash Saturday morning involving at least nine vehicles on southbound Interstate 15 near Primm caused an hourslong traffic delay. Traffic was backed up to Sloan, live traffic cameras show. (Rio Lacanlale/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Death Valley visitors deal with shutdown
Visitors staying at the Furnace Creek Campground were forced to move from the campground following health and safety concerns due to lack of resources during the partial government shutdown at Death Valley National Park in Calif., on Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. Richard Brian Las Vegas Review-Journal @vegasphotograph
Half of homicides in Henderson for 2018 domestic violence related
Lt. Kirk Moore of the public information office of the city of Henderson police department speaks to the Review-Journal in Henderson, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. Henderson saw a slight increase in homicides in the past year. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Governor-elect Steve Sisolak stops by Las Vegas Boys and Girls Club
Governor-elect Steve Sisolak kicks off his tour to Carson City, which will take him from Las Vegas, through Tonopah, and up to the capital city. First stop is the Downtown Boys & Girls Club.
Certificates for renewing wedding vows in Clark County
The Marriage License Bureau in Clark County began issuing a Certificate of Vow Renewal to married couples who are renewing their wedding vows on Jan. 3, 2019. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas flu season better than last year (so far)
Dr. Fermin Leguen, chief medical officer and director of clinical services at the Southern Nevada Health District, said there were 24 flu-related deaths at this point in the flu season. No deaths have been reported so far this year. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The Las Vegas Valley’s First Baby of 2019
The first 2019 baby in the Las Vegas Valley was Melialani Chihiro Manning, born at 12:10 a.m. at Henderson Hospital. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas NYE Fireworks - VIDEO
The full show: A spectacular view from the rooftop of the Trump International Hotel as 80,000 pyrotechnics illuminated the Las Vegas Strip at the stroke of midnight. Fireworks by Grucci choreographed launches from the Stratosphere, the Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Aria and MGM Grand.
Snow in Henderson on New Year's Eve morning
Light snow flurries in Anthem Highlands in Henderson on Monday morning, the last day of 2018.
Sources: Henderson Constable may face more charges
Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell may face additional charges ... stemming from his spending of county funds, sources said. Mitchell was indicted earlier this month on five felony theft and fraud charges ... after a Las Vegas Review-Journal story questioned his spending. But grand jury records show even more extensive spending including ... an $800 dinner at steakhouse ... nearly 200 atm withdrawals mostly at gambling establishments ... and even Disneyland tickets. But his attorney plans to ask a judge to dismiss the charges.
Las Vegas NYE Restrictions and Enhanced Security
If you are planning to celebrate New Year's Eve on the Las Vegas Strip or Fremont Street, be aware that you are not allowed to bring backpacks, coolers, strollers or glass. There will also be an increase in security to ensure safe celebrations across town.
Catholic Charities serves up 53rd annual Christmas dinner
Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada and more than 100 volunteers served 1,000 Christmas meals to Southern Nevada's homeless and less fortunate. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @kmcannonphoto)
Henderson couple adds another school to their generosity
Bob and Sandy Ellis of Henderson, who donate to several Clark County School District schools, have added Matt Kelly Elementary in Las Vegas to their list of schools where every student gets new shoes, socks and a toy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jeffrey Martin Added To Nevada's Black Book
Martin was one of four men convicted of theft and cheating at gambling in 2016 in Clark County District Court and sentenced to prison. The Nevada Gaming Commission voted unanimously Thursday to include Martin in the black book.
Raiders Stadium Timelapse
Construction on the new Raiders stadium continues in Las Vegas.
Buffalo Wild Wings security video
Security footage from a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in southwest Las Vegas captured a driver who repeatedly crashed into a vehicle in a failed attempt to squeeze into a tight parking spot.
The Magical Forest at Opportunity Village
Opportunity Village's Magical Forest added 1 million lights and a synchronized music show visible from all over the forest this year. The holiday attraction, which began in 1991, has a train, rides, food and entertainment along with the light displays. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like