Oct 3, 2007
“In seeking a stay from the Seventh Circuit [of Judge Joan Lefkow’s order unsealing a list of police officers with the most excessive force complaints], the City emphasized that it would, in keeping with Judge Lekfow’s ruling, make the documents available to any aldermen who asked for them” Jamie Kalven comments at View From The Ground on the story broken in the Tribune today.
“Having been granted the stay, [City Counsel Mara] Georges now tells aldermen who request the documents that the City cannot provide them because of the stay.”
Kalven is the independent journalist who filed the motion initially requesting public disclosure of the documents, which Lefkow granted. The argument about alermanic access came as the City Council was considering reform of the Office of Professional Standards in July (see Newstips: Judge Orders Release of Police Data).
“Withholding the documents on the basis of this transparently specious argument is an affront to the First Amendment—-and to members of the City Council,” Kalven goes on. “They should insist on their right to this information.
“A great deal is at stake. Circumstances have combined to create an historic opportunity for police reform in Chicago. Once the disputed documents are released, they will interact with information already in the public domain in ways that will deepen our understanding of patterns of police abuse and also of the systemic failures of supervision, monitoring, and discipline that have allowed abusive officers to operate for years with impunity.
“Consider, for example, the ever-expanding Special Operations Section case. Six SOS officers have been indicted on an array of charges that include corruption, kidnapping, and robbery. They stand accused, in effect, of having operated a large-scale criminal enterprise out of their unit. A number of other SOS officers have been granted immunity in exchange for their testimony. The trial has not yet begun, yet the damage continues to mount. The state’s attorney’s office has dropped more than a hundred pending felony cases, because they were contaminated by one or another of the defendants. A large number of civil cases will inevitably be brought against the City. The U.S. Attorney’s office is undertaking its own investigation. Finally, last week Officer Jerome Finnegan, the alleged ringleader of the SOS racketeering operation, was arrested by federal agents for plotting the murder-for-hire of a former SOS officer who had agreed to testify against him and his co-defendants.
“Although we do not yet know the full dimensions of the SOS scandal, it is clear that the monetary and institutional costs to the City will be vast. Against this background, what might we learn from the list of officers who have amassed the most civilian complaints over a five year period?…
“What would be revealed about the CPD’s systems of supervision, monitoring, and discipline, if we definitively knew that Finnegan and his co-defendants are at or near the top of the list?”