by Ed Lyon
On August 16, 2018, a new era of transparency in Chicago police misconduct dawned. An updated version of a public database called the Citizens Police Data Project 2.0 (“CPDP”) makes available disciplinary records of Chicago police officers.
Similar to the nationwide Henry A. Wallace Police Crime Database launched in September 2017 (See: CLN, July 2018, p. 24), the CPDP bares for all to see over 240,000 misconduct allegations against over 22,000 Chicago cops, spanning more than 50 years.
The CPDP is the brainchild of independent journalist Jamie Kalven, who got his start in Chicago’s high-rise public housing projects from 1994 to 2007. He helped former offenders and worked to rehabilitate gang members. Kalven began producing human rights reports in a paper called View From The Ground (“The View”), published under the aegis of a cover front called the Invisible Institute.
The name took root and sprouted into what Kalven called a “loose network of collaborators,” representing a unique type of “inquiry, exploration and relationship-building.”
Affiliated with the University of Chicago Law School’s legal aid clinic’s civil rights attorney Craig Futterman and his students, The View published the serial story of Diane Bond, who was physically, sexually, and emotionally assaulted by the “skullcap crew”—a gang of Chicago cops. During the pendency of Futterman’s civil rights suit on Bond’s behalf, Kalven was granted plaintiff-intervenor status by Judge Joan Lefkow.
Lefkow entered an order for Chicago to surrender complaint histories and registers pertaining to Chicago cops to Kalven.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit vacated Lefkow’s grant of intervenor status to Kalven. The efficacy of Lefkow’s records’ production order was not addressed, but a footnote in the court’s opinion noted those records could be sought via the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. Aided by Futterman’s Mandel Clinic with Loevy & Loevy the People’s Law Office, seven years of litigation at trial and appeal culminated in a 2014 ruling that “documents relating to allegations of police misconduct are public information in Illinois.”
After this decision, the Invisible Institute became a physical nonprofit entity, raising funds and hiring staff. Following the court’s principle that police disciplinary records are public property, data technicians in several specialties developed the CPDP. Opposition by police generated several obstacles, so an abbreviated version of the website launched in 2015 with the full 2.0 version introduced to the public on August 16, 2018.
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