Chicago Police Misconduct Records – Important Update
By Ken Hare
Chicago Defender Staff Writer
In a dizzying display of back and forth, here are the latest development in the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) v. City of Chicago and the Policemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association of Illinois (PBPA) v. City of Chicago lawsuits. The two unions; one representing rank and file – FOP, the other, upper management – PBPA, have both sued the city independently of each other alleging a breach of contract.
Per the union’s contract, the judges assigned to the cases ordered both sides to go to arbitration. In the PBPA v. Chicago case, the Arbitrator, Jules I. Crystal issued a final award on November 4, 2015, ordering the city to start the destruction of certain records. However, the city of Chicago filed a petition to Vacate the Arbitrator’s Award on January 28, 2016. On February 29, 2016, Arbitrator Crystal, suddenly reversed his decision stating “… the undersigned finds that recent developments since the issuance of his Award in November 2015, requires a re-assessment of the remedy that was directed in the Award.”
He furthers “Accordingly, the undersigned directs the parties to comply with the directives of Article 34 and negotiate a substitute provision for Section 8.4. For those who aren’t familiar with Section 8.4, this section of the PBPA contract governs the length of time the city can keep the misconduct records.
In the FOP case which has grabbed national and international headlines, the Arbitrator, George Roumell, Jr., has decided thus far that Chicago has to put into motion a process to start the destruction of police misconduct records this month. According to University of Chicago, Law Professor Craig Futterman, who has spent the more than a decade fighting for police accountability said “The arbitrator in the FOP case who ordered the destruction of the records is aware of Arbitrator Crystal’s ruling. After meeting with lawyers for the City and FOP, he remains scheduled to issue his final ruling on April 15, .”
According to Attorney Futterman, “Illinois legislation remains the only real permanent solution.” Illinois state has a Local Records Act (50 ILCS 205/1) that governs the preservation of “local records.” The current state Act provides for the destruction of records but the Act can be amended to preserve certain public records permanently, thus voiding Article 8.4 in both union contracts. That is the hope of state legislators like Senator Patricia Van Pelt, who has sponsored SB2233 to make such changes and State Representative La Shawn Ford, whose HB6266 would accomplish the same.
One of the keys to the success of changing the law is continued public pressure and awareness. There is an online petition at Change.org that has so far amassed over 25,000 signatures going to Rahm Emanuel. Click here to view and sign the petition: https://www.change.org/p/mayor-rahm-emanuel-save-chicago-police-misconduct-records-before-its-too-late
Also, the Chicago Defender has published an in-depth, three-part series, examining the nature of the FOP’s contract with the city of Chicago and the difficulty faced when it comes to disciplining police accused of excessive force. Click on the links below to read the series:
Learn how your voice can make a tremendous difference in this fight for justice. The Chicago Defender will soon post information on how to file witness slips to support the state legislators efforts to amend the Illinois Local Records Act. Stay tuned…