Matt Topic (773) 368-8812
Robert Herguth (312) 821-9030

CHICAGO—How often do Chicago police officers miss work-related court hearings, and what effect do those absences have on criminal and traffic proceedings?

Those are potentially important questions that speak to how well officers are doing their jobs, the integrity of the criminal justice system, the stewardship of taxpayer dollars and a host of other issues.

But apparently they aren’t questions the Chicago Police Department is willing to answer.

Citing the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, the Better Government Association asked the police department for copies of records on court absences. Unsatisfied with CPD’s response, the BGA submitted a new request pressing for detailed records – including a database with information on court absences by officers – and CPD failed to even respond.

So on April 22, 2015, the BGA filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court against the police department, claiming the agency violated FOIA, the state law guaranteeing public access to public records upon request.

“They not only didn’t turn over the information we asked for, they ignored our request altogether, in blatant violation of FOIA,” said BGA CEO and President Andy Shaw. “CPD is supposed to enforce laws, not break them. This really speaks to a culture of indifference to taxpayers, and a woeful lack of transparency.”

The BGA has another pending lawsuit against CPD for its failure last year to respond to a FOIA request seeking copies of letters and emails between aldermen and police district commanders.

“The Emanuel administration, which oversees CPD, has heralded its commitment to transparency, but has not delivered in too many instances,” Shaw said. “The proof is in the numerous lawsuits we’ve filed in recent years against various city government agencies, including the police.”

Here’s a link to all of BGA’s legal actions.

The Better Government Association is a Chicago-based nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog group that works for integrity, transparency and accountability in government by exposing corruption and inefficiency; identifying and advocating effective public policy; and engaging and mobilizing the public to achieve authentic and responsible reform.