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Chicago must release all police use-of-force recordings on time

If the city hopes to rebuild trust in the police in every neighborhood, it must meet the 60-day release requirement every time.

A Chicago police squad car.
Annie Costabile/Sun-Times

It’s been four years since Chicago’s Task Force on Police Accountability recommended that most video, audio and documents pertaining to the use of force by the police be released to the public within 60 days of the incident.

Yet that is not happening.

City Hall’s office of the inspector general was absolutely right, in a report released Tuesday, to call out the city’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability for failing to do so. After reviewing 122 cases over a three-year period, the inspector general found 33 instances in which the 60-day policy was violated.

In some cases, COPA blew the 60-day deadline because employees mistakenly started the clock when they were notified of the incident rather than on the date the incident occurred. In other cases, according to the inspector general, the deadline was missed because COPA employees were trying to determine if the cases qualified for the mandated release of materials. And still in other cases, the Office of Emergency Management Communications did not turn the materials over to COPA in time for COPA to meet the deadline.

But that misses the point. If Chicago wants to rebuild trust in the police in every neighborhood, the 60-day deadline must be hit, come what may. The policy covers all incidents in which police fire their guns, regardless of whether anyone was hit, use a Taser or use enough force to cause great bodily harm or death.

Distrust in the police intensified after City Hall kept video of the 2014 Laquan McDonald police shooting under wraps for more than a year. The more the public is kept in the loop — the more every incident involving police use of force is examined promptly and openly — the sooner that essential trust will be restored.

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