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Will Chicago Police Disciplinary Records Be Released or Destroyed?

By Tanveer Ali | December 3, 2015 1:09pm | Updated on December 3, 2015 1:43pm
 Journalists, the city and the police union are in a legal battle on whether to release or destroy the records.
Journalists, the city and the police union are in a legal battle on whether to release or destroy the records.
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Facebook/Chicago Police Department

CHICAGO — Journalists, the police union and the city are in a legal battle on whether to publicly release disciplinary records filed for every officer dating back to 1967 or destroy them.

Last year, journalist Jamie Kalven successfully sued to release Chicago Police complaint records dating back four years.

Kalven's Invisible Institute has since made that data public. After that win, Kalven, the Tribune and the Sun-Times asked the city for every complaint filed since 1967.

The city agreed to do so.

But the Fraternal Order of Police moved to block the release on grounds that releasing old records break union rules.

At a court date on the case Thursday morning, Kalven said the information is essential to help the city address police reform after the release of the video showing Officer Jason Van Dyke shoot Laquan McDonald 16 times.

"The whole process we are engaged with as a city in terms of how the systems work and don't work are hugely handicapped without this information," Kalven said.

With journalists and the city on one side and the union on another, the case is awaiting a decision by an arbitrator who could rule in a variety of ways, including to release the records, destroy the database that makes it easy to find the records or destroy the records themselves.

That decision is expected to come in the next few months. Pat Fioretto, a lawyer for the police union, said nothing will be done by either side until that official decision is released.

The police contract says that all disciplinary files will be destroyed five years after the date of the incident or the date the violation was discovered, whichever is longer. Not sustained complaints of criminal conduct or excessive force are kept seven years.

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