The Better Government Association and WBEZ won a top honor from the Chicago Bar Association for a collaborative, multi-part investigation into questionable suburban police shootings and lax oversight of suburban cops.
The series, “Taking Cover,” won the prestigious Herman Kogan Media Award in the online journalism category. “Taking Cover” was also a finalist for a national Silver Gavel Award for Media and the Arts, which is handed out annually by the American Bar Association.
Another BGA collaboration was also honored at the Kogan Awards. That story, “You, Too: The Public Cost of Sexual Harassment,” done by the BGA and NBC5 Investigates, examined the cost of government sexual misconduct throughout Illinois and Northwest Indiana and was honored with meritorious achievement in the broadcast category. That investigation also won Best Investigative Report by the Illinois Associated Press Broadcasters Association and is a finalist for a Silver Dome Award by the Illinois Broadcasters Association.
Last week, the BGA took home three Peter Lisagor Awards from the Chicago Headline Club for its work raising questions about Chicago’s recycling program, its examination with WBEZ of suburban poverty in suburban Dolton and another story with NBC5 Investigates about the police code of silence.
Both the recycling story and “Taking Cover” were named finalists for the Watchdog Award, the top honor given by the Headline Club.
The “Taking Cover” series found that since 2005 there had been at least 113 police shootings in suburban Cook County in which officers shot unarmed suspects, innocent bystanders and even each other yet not a single officer involved was ever disciplined, fired or charged criminally. What’s more, only a few of the shootings were even reviewed for misconduct.
After the stories were published and aired, public officials in Cook County and Springfield took several actions to close loopholes identified by the series. The Cook County Sheriff offered assistance for departments to conduct administrative investigations. And former Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation that had unanimously passed the General Assembly that requires all police shootings in the state to undergo an internal review for policy violations or procedural mistakes.
In the past 13 months, the BGA has now won or been finalists for 10 national awards.