The Chicago Police Department’s efforts to comply with subpoenas are inadequate and “has put due process and the fairness of criminal and civil litigation at stake,” the city’s Office of the Inspector General concludes in a report released Wednesday.
The OIG said the CPD “lacks the means to determine what records may exist for any case or incident, making it impossible to know whether it has identified and produced all relevant records” requested in the thousands of criminal and civil cases that involve the department every year.
“CPD’s failure to identify and produce all records in its possession has put due process and the fairness of criminal and civil litigation at stake, with enormous potential consequences for individual litigants and their liberty interests,” acting Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety Deborah Witzburg said in a statement.
Attorneys representing the city in civil cases involving alleged police misconduct have repeatedly come under fire in recent years over failures to turn over pertinent records.
Police spokesman Tom Ahern said the department was already working to modernize its records management protocols before the OIG began its audit. Ahern said the department has adopted a digital tracking system for all criminal cases and conducted staff training to ensure legal requirements are met. The department has also “created an overarching database search tool to ensure complete records production of officer disciplinary history.”
“CPD is currently working to establish a department-wide protocol for records production and management, as well as unit-specific standard operating procedures and will take the recommendations made by the OIG to build on those ongoing comprehensive reform efforts,” Ahern said in a statement.
The department has also created “an internal working group” of employees assigned to departmental divisions that handle subpoenas, according to the OIG. The group’s objective will be to “spearhead changes to CPD orders, creation of internal standard operation procedures for each of the units and to share information to make CPD records management process better.”