Lightfoot says executive order will help people alleging police misconduct
People filing complaints with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability can obtain some video and documents without filing. a formal request under the Freedom of Information Act. But the new policy still allows the city to deny requests in some cases.
People alleging they are the victims of police misconduct could, in some cases, have an easier time obtaining video and documents from the Chicago Police Department, according to a new policy announced Friday night.
Under an executive order signed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, people who have filed complaints with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability can obtain that information without needing to file a formal request under the Freedom of Information Act.
The move comes nearly two months after Lightfoot vowed a series of reforms following the release of videos of the now-infamous botched raid on social worker Anjanette Young’s home.
The order allows those alleged victims to file a complaint with COPA for materials related to the incident. Then COPA will send that request within three days to the Chicago Police Department and the city’s Law Department.
Unless the video being requested falls under the city’s “video release policy,” the materials will be released within 30 calendar days, according to the order. Those materials include video and audio recordings from CPD dash cameras and body-warn-cameras, initial police reports and tactical response reports.
The order, which takes effect March 7, would supposedly create an “easy-to-navigate process” allowing complainants to obtain materials relevant to their claims of misconduct.
“This order puts in place changes that we have seen are long-overdue in how complainants of alleged misconduct receive the material they need to pursue the recourse and closure they deserve,” Lightfoot said in a statement . “While we still have a long way to go, this measure represents an important and meaningful step in our journey toward ensuring full public safety accountability and justice in the city of Chicago.”
But it was unclear Friday night how that exception under the “video release policy” could be cited in declining those requests, even under the new policy. The mayor’s office or COPA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment and clarification on the effect of the mayor’s order.
Normally, COPA releases videos only in certain use-of-force incidents and can’t unilaterally provide police misconduct materials. This forces alleged victims to file a FOIA request and that request can be denied for various reasons, such as if their request is deemed too broad.
The mayor’s office received backlash after it became clear the city actively worked to suppress videos from being released that showed Young’s Near West Side home being raided by nearly a dozen officers. Young, a social worker, was naked and getting ready for bed when the officers broke down her door.
Young was left handcuffed and naked for about 40 minutes during the raid.
The city turned over the video footage to Young and her attorney because of a federal lawsuit that stemmed from the raid. The city sought sanctions for Young’s attorney for leaking the footage to the media — a protective order was in place that prevented it from being shared. City lawyers also asked U.S. District Judge John Tharp to order CBS Channel 2 not to broadcast the video.
Lightfoot initially denied knowing anything about the raid but later had to admit she had known about it over a year ago. She promised to “do better” and “win back the trust that we have lost” as a result of the raid.