What are they hiding?
CHICAGO POLICE | List of officers with more than 10 complaints remains a secret
July 17, 2007
BY FRANK MAIN AND ABDON M. PALLASCH Staff Reporters
Records involving cops with more than 10 complaints against them will remain secret until a federal appeals court decides whether to make them public.
The city is trying to keep the potentially embarrassing documents under wraps. They include a list of 662 Chicago Police officers -- one of every 20 cops on the 13,200-member force -- with more than 10 civilian complaints lodged against them between 2001 and 2006.
A week ago, U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow ordered the city to release the list, but the city appealed. On Monday, just before the 5 p.m. deadline that Lefkow imposed for the documents to be released, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the city a stay that keeps them secret until the court can decide if they are public. "The city of Chicago spends unprecedented resources fighting to keep from the public the data about how the Police Department polices itself -- while at the same time, they publicly profess the virtues of openness and transparency," said Jon Loevy, an attorney seeking to bring the documents to light.
Some have more than 30 complaints
The list will show if a complaint against an officer was "sustained" and if it resulted in discipline -- or if the department deemed it to be "unsustained" or "unfounded" or determined the officer was "exonerated."
The records will identify some officers who have received more than 30 complaints but who did not face any "meaningful" discipline, Loevy said. The documents also will identify the police units with the highest concentrations of cops with 10 or more complaints against them.
"Most police officers do their jobs without attracting any complaints," Loevy said. "It's this tiny portion that cause most of the problems." Critics of the department hoped the documents would surface before Thursday, when the City Council is scheduled to consider a proposed ordinance that would change the office that investigates complaints against cops. Under the measure, the head of the Office of Professional Standards would report to the mayor and not to the police superintendent; summaries of the investigations would become public, and OPS investigators would receive subpoena power. Loevy called those changes "window dressing" and a "P.R. stunt."
The information on complaints against cops was gathered by attorneys for Diane Bond, who sued the city claiming she was abused by officers working in a Chicago Public Housing building on the South Side in 2003. She received a $150,000 settlement from the city, records show. Loevy represents Jamie Kalven, a writer who entered the case as a third party to make the documents public. "We're at a kind of historic moment in the city in terms of real and meaningful police reforms, and the information in the disputed documents is directly relevant to the public debate that's going on right now," Kalven said. A spokeswoman for the city's Law Department did not return a call, but in court papers the city argues that the documents should not be released because they did not become part of the court proceedings in Bond's lawsuit and would invade the officers' privacy. On July 9, Lefkow ruled that the documents were still presumed to be public, writing "the public has a significant interest in monitoring the conduct of its police officers and a right to know how allegations of misconduct are being investigated and handled."