Citing the Chicago Police Department’s “willful violation” of public records law, the Better Government Association has filed suit to obtain police reports and videos surrounding Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson’s interaction with officers on the night last month he was found asleep at the wheel of his parked car.
The police department denied the BGA’s request through the Illinois Freedom of Information Act seeking access to “all reports, dash camera videos, body camera videos, and other records related to the police encounter.” The CPD in its response earlier this month contended the records are exempt from public scrutiny because the matter remains under investigation by the Chicago Office of the Inspector General.
Johnson requested an investigation of himself after he was found asleep in his parked car just after midnight Oct. 17 near the 3400 block of South Aberdeen Street. He has blamed the incident on his failure to take his blood pressure medication. Mayor Lori Lightfoot also has said Johnson told her had had consumed “a couple of drinks with dinner” before driving home and eventually slumping over in his car. Johnson announced last week he is retiring from the department at the end of the year, and Lightfoot has appointed former Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck as his interim replacement.
In its response, Chicago police said it consulted with the inspector general’s office about the BGA request and that the “OIG has determined that disclosing the responsive records would interfere or obstruct the integrity of the active investigation for future administrative and/or criminal charging.”
“Release of such records would divulge information that would affect witness testimony, thereby challenging the integrity and jeopardizing the progress of the active investigation,” the police department said in its response.
In its lawsuit, the BGA contends that “any public body that asserts that a record is exempt from disclosure has the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that it is exempt,” wrote Chicago attorney Matt Topic, who is representing the BGA in the suit. “CPD has not proven that the requested records are exempt … CPD has willfully and intentionally or otherwise in bad faith violated FOIA.”