Chicago police are pushing to get records of past misconduct destroyed. If they succeed, no data older than the past five years will remain.
The concealment and non-disclosure of misbehaving police officers’ records allows them to escape accountability with impunity.
If they get their way, evidence like the video showing deadly shootings of blacks in Chicago by police officers will be gone forever.
This has brought protesters out on the streets demanding police accountability.
Chicago police misdemeanor files dating back to 1967 could be destroyed before ever seeing the light of the day, claims Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago law professor. He has been an active participant in the fight for the release of police records for over a decade and recently won the release of some valuable data, which includes complaints of excessive force.
Futterman has made the files available to the public on a searchable online database. He also claims that although the number of police officers charged with misconduct is small, there are a few officers who have quite a large number of complaints.
Jason Van Dyke, the officer who was charged with first degree murder of Laquan McDonald, had records showing 19 complaints of misconduct against him even before he shot the 17-year-old.
By allowing these records of criminal misdeeds to become public, the Chicago police department can show that it takes allegations of police abuse very seriously. Once police officers realize that they will be creating easily accessible public records every time someone files a complaint against them, they are bound to be more discreet while on-duty.
The belief that the people who are sworn to protect the public won’t be held answerable undermines public confidence in the police department. This is a big problem in the city, where crime rate is high yet many people are mistrustful of the cops assigned to protect them. The lack of public trust is far more destructive than anything that can be found in the police record files.