CHICAGO—Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said he supports a new policy requiring that videos of fatal shootings by Chicago police be publicly released relatively soon after the incidents.
But the Emanuel administration is stonewalling a Better Government Association request for footage from the past five years, so the BGA is suing the Chicago Police Department – again.
Under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act – the state law known as FOIA that guarantees public access to public records within no more than 10 business days – the BGA asked the police department for copies of records and videos of officer-involved fatal shootings since 2011.
But the police department “violated FOIA by failing to produce videos and records . . . on the basis that there is insufficient public interest to require CPD to undertake the work involved to respond, even with a 60-day extension,” according to the BGA’s lawsuit, filed March 18 in Cook County Circuit Court.
The suit says “CPD’s FOIA practices with regard to shooting videos have not materially changed following the release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video,” which showed Chicago cop Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing McDonald although it appeared he posed no imminent threat.
“CPD’s failure to provide the requested videos and reports at issue here is part of an ongoing pattern of delay in the release of police shooting videos,” according to the suit.
It’s unclear how many videos – often from squad-car dashboard cameras – there are of shootings by Chicago police. But Chicago cops shot and killed 70 people between 2011 and 2015.
BGA President and CEO Andy Shaw said, “One of the best ways for the city and police department to rebuild trust and confidence is to get important information out in the open expeditiously.”
“The public has a right to see video evidence of officer-involved shootings, especially when so many questions have been raised about how the city and police have handled these investigations,” Shaw said.
This marks the fourth lawsuit the BGA has filed since 2014 against the police department, which is overseen by the mayor and well known for violating FOIA by ignoring, delaying or wrongly denying records requests. The BGA made multiple attempts to work with CPD to resolve the most-recent dispute before resorting to litigation.
Matt Topic (773) 368-8812