Chicago Officials Allow Public Access to Police Misconduct Records

A couple of months ago, we wrote a post about a state appeals court ruling which prohibited the city of from hiding records about citizen complaints against the Chicago Police Department. It was expected at the time that this ruling would be appealed by the city and that the legal issue would continue to be debated. However, this month, city officials have officially stated that they will not be appealing the decision after all—so citizen complaints will indeed be made available to the public.

Of course there will be limitations to the public's access to information (citizen names will be kept private, for example, and any information pertaining to a case that is still under investigation will not be released), but this is still a win for Chicago citizens. The ruling means that a lawyer or journalist could educate him or herself about the current real climate of relationships between the Chicago Police Department and the public that it serves, allowing for more accurate perspective as to whether their isolated concerns are shared by others. Additionally, one might be able to point to other past examples of Police misconduct complaints in defense of a wrongful arrest or conviction.

Perhaps the most important implication of the ruling, this level of transparency with the public will also provide a higher level of trust in the CPD. Indeed, as said by Chicago Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy, "By allowing access to these records, the Chicago Police Department will further demonstrate that it takes allegations of police misconduct seriously". Perhaps the alternative of distrust and suggested dishonesty was considered when city officials made their decision to affirm this court ruling. In any case, they made the decision that protects the rights of Chicago citizens, and that decision is always the right one.

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