City drops appeal, will release police misconduct complaints

Rennie Simmons won a $99,999 settlement from the City of Chicago in 2009 that stemmed from a federal lawsuit he filed alleging that Chicago police lieutenant Glenn Evans framed him with a false battery charge to cover up his own misconduct. [File photo by Marc Monaghan]

Rennie Simmons won a $99,999 settlement from the City of Chicago in 2009 that stemmed from a federal lawsuit he filed alleging that Chicago police lieutenant Glenn Evans framed him with a false battery charge to cover up his own misconduct. [File photo by Marc Monaghan]

The City of Chicago is finally giving up – police misconduct complaints and the fight to keep them under wraps.

An Illinois appeals court ruled in March that police misconduct complaints — both the original records and the Chicago Police Department’s electronic log of them — are subject to the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. The city was set to petition the state supreme court, but instead issued a press release on Sunday reversing its stance.

“The City of Chicago had the option to continue to litigate this matter, but ultimately we concluded that – with proper safeguards in place – it will serve a greater public good to allow these investigations to be subject to open records laws,” said Chicago Corporation Counsel Steve Patton in the release.

Standard FOIA exemptions will apply, including those pertaining to burdensomeness. Records will also be redacted to ensure the information released will not compromise investigations or witness confidentiality.

The city was responding to a law suit originally filed in 2009 by activist and journalist Jamie Kalvin, after his FOIA request for police misconduct records was denied.

Two years ago, The Chicago Reporter conducted an investigation into police misconduct by identifying officers who’d been named in multiple lawsuits for which the city had to pay damages. The allegations included beatings, false arrests and unlawful detentions.

By reviewing hundreds of lawsuits settled during a three-year period, we found so-called “repeater” officers accounted for more than a quarter of the $45.5 million in settlements paid by the city with taxpayer money. Since then, the bills have continued to mount. In Feb. 2014, the city moved to borrow up to $100 million to cover settlements, most involving police misconduct.

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