Chicago has a troubling, but vague history of police misconduct and citizens have the right to understand the implications. Until recently, access to records pertaining to misconduct have been under guard, but that is about to change.
The Illinois Appellate Court recently ruled in Kalven v. City of Chicago that citizen complaints about police misconduct will be considered public record. An appeal is expected however, as the defense for the CPD is standing firm on their claim that these records are exempt from the Illinois Freedom of Information Act and therefore do not need to be made available to the public.
The key factor in the ruling that complaint register files (including citizen complaints and information about investigations that have occurred as a result of these complaints) are not in fact exempt is that this information is purely factual. As reported in the Tribune's coverage of the ruling, judges wrote that exemption only applies to "opinions that public officials form while creating government policy. It does not protect factual material or final agency decisions".
Details about disciplinary action taken against an officer as a result of citizen complaint will likely continue to be kept under wraps, since this information falls under the category of "adjudication of employee grievances or disciplinary cases," which is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. The court's ruling to otherwise make complaint files available to public research still could have a significant impact on criminal defense law in the future.
If you believe you are a victim of police misconduct, it is crucial to have the right legal support. And now, it will be possible to have all the facts.