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City asks court to preserve CPD misconduct records

Sun-Times file photo

The City of Chicago is asking a judge to order the preservation of police disciplinary records while also striking a section of the rank-and-file police union’s collective bargaining agreement, ensuring those records would be preserved in the future.

The city filed the petition to vacate the Fraternal Order of Police’s arbitration award Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court.

Section 8.4 of the collective bargaining agreement between the FOP and the city states that disciplinary records more than five years old are to be destroyed, except for criminal and civil litigation-related material.

In January, an arbitrator ruled the city violated the agreement by not destroying the records and ordered the city and union to meet and agree on a time, place and method to destroy them. On Feb. 4, the two sides “were unable to identify records which could be destroyed nor agree on a timeline and/or method for the destruction of the records,” the filing stated.

On Feb. 12 and 19, the Department of Justice — which had opened a still-ongoing investigation into the practices of the police department — requested preservation of all police disciplinary and investigative records, according to the filing.

Two months later, an arbitrator ruled that the Department of Justice’s requests warranted the preservation of the records “at this point in time,” the filing stated. In June, the arbitrator clarified and said the records were to be preserved only until the department had concluded its inquiry.

The city argued that the destruction of the records would leave it in violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

There are currently about 480 police misconduct lawsuits being handled by the city’s Law Department and the records in question could be used to prove officers’ innocence, the filing stated.

Pat Fioretto, an attorney for the union, questioned the city’s decision to file a new petition instead of entering it in the already existing case file.

“Seems to me they’ve gone forum shopping to get another judge to address this when it should be in front of Judge [Peter] Flynn,” Fioretto said.

Fioretto added that the union will be filing a new lawsuit asking for the enforcement of the existing arbitration decision, which ordered the destruction of the records more than five years old after the Department of Justice concluded its inquiry.

The city is asking a judge to strike Section 8.4 from the collective bargaining agreement and to vacate the arbitrator’s ruling that ordered the destruction of the records.