WEST TOWN — Following through on plans to release video and other information on cases of alleged police misconduct, the Independent Police Review Authority released 101 such cases to the public on Friday.
IPRA chief Sharon Fairley called the project — opening cases of police shootings, use of Tasers and "death or great bodily harm" in police custody — "a tremendous undertaking ... regarding IPRA’s implementation of a video-release policy for certain officer-involved incidents.
Fairley said the agency was out to balance the public's right to know with maintaining "the integrity of investigations" and urged the public to avoid making assumptions.
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"It's really important for you to keep in mind that these materials may not convey all of the facts and considerations that are relevant [to an officer's conduct," Fairley said, adding that videos may leave out relevant context.
Going forward, she said, case reports on open investigations will be released, with available video or audio, within 60-90 days.
Although aware that the Police Accountability Task Force and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have both suggested IPRA be disbanded, Fairley said it was important to get the information out amid the debate and "let it play out" before "any new police oversight system" is put in place.
"We all agree there is a lack of trust" between the Police Department and the community, she said, "and increased transparency is an important first step in restoring that trust."
From Washington, D.C., Emanuel issued a statement cheering the move as fulfilling a pledge made in February, saying, "Today, with the formal implementation of the new policy, we are acting boldly and thoughtfully." He called it "a major step forward to promote transparency" and said it put Chicago in the national forefront on police scrutiny and accountability.
The agency was not releasing 100 police videos, but rather was releasing information and documents on 101 open cases of possible police misconduct, 68 including videos. A total of about 300 videos were immediately made available on the Case Portal at iprachicago.org.
The review authority and the Law Department singled out six "heater cases" with "particularly sensitive video." They included the cases of:
•David Strong was shot by police along with two accomplices, who were wounded, during a robbery at an electronics store at 62nd Street and California Avenue on April 3, 2012. Video shows them bursting through a garage door in a stolen van and into a crowd of officers waiting outside, at which point police open fire.
•Ismael Jamison was charged with assaulting passengers on a CTA bus on Nov. 22, 2012. Shirtless and hulking, he charges an officer and is shot in the stomach and foot, yet continues to resist arrest.
•Michael Cote was the driver of an SUV who went on a "rampage" hitting parked cars on North Hoyne Avenue on June 11, 2014. Cellphone video taken by two witnesses who offer profanity-laced commentary from an apartment above shows Cote surrounded by squad cars, driving into a storefront below, then backing out, at which point police shoot and he is wounded in the stomach. Just before shooting breaks out, one of the witnesses says, "Seriously, watch the ---- out!"
•Zainul Hussein was shot in the midst of fight with baseball bats at North and Clybourn avenues on July 20, 2015. Dashcam video shows the aftermath, with Hussein shot in the leg and crouching in the street as two other suspects have their hands behind their heads in the background after being arrested.
•Lisa Simmons and Jeremiah Smith were arrested in the midst of a rowdy block party on West 15th Street on July 12, 2014. Cellphone video shows Simmons arrested and hurled across the hood of a police cruiser. Smith is cracked in the face with a police baton by an officer shortly after the cop warned bystanders, "Get out of the street or you're going to jail."
•Terrence Clarke was a Canadian hockey fan arrested at the Portillo's at Clark and Ontario streets on June 16, 2015, apparently after midnight following the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup victory. Clarke allegedly tossed a cup of cheese at off-duty Chicago officer Khaled Shaar, working security at the restaurant. Video shows the officer trying to arrest and handcuff Clarke, then socking him in the face while still holding the cuffs. Clarke was reportedly treated at Northwestern Memorial Hospital for an eye injury.
Fairley emphasized that the 101 cases are not all the open IPRA investigations, but only those involving officer-involved shootings, the use of Tasers in a death or injury and deaths or "great bodily harm" in police custody.
Cases involving juveniles are generally not released unless under a court order. Names and other details are sometimes redacted from documents and audio recordings, under the same guidelines as Freedom of Information Act requests, but video is raw and unedited.
Cases on the portal can be searched by type of incident and by name of the suspect, but not by the officers involved.
The release makes good on Emanuel administration pledges to make police videos more readily available in the wake of the Laquan McDonald case, but it comes at a dicey time for the agency designed to be independent. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said last month he'd like to see the agency replaced by a civilian review board.
Emanuel placed former city inspector general administrator Fairley in charge of the agency in December as part of a Police Department shakeup that also saw the firing of former police Supt. Garry McCarthy.
In April, Emanuel's appointed Police Accountability Task Force released a report calling on the Chicago Police Department to acknowledge racism and fight the "code of silence" that keeps officers from being held accountable.
That task force also called for videos to be more readily released to the public, within 60 to 90 days.
"While I am pleased that Chicago is taking this important next step in our effort to be more transparent on these issues, we know there is a lot more work to do," Emanuel said. "This new policy is one piece of a much larger effort to restore trust and repair relationships between law enforcement and our communities.
"In the weeks and months ahead, we will continue to take action on our road to reform," he added. "I am confident that Chicago will be better off because we are facing up to these difficult challenges and we are doing so together."
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