To Swerve and Deflect.
July 31, 2014 8:53 PM   Subscribe

On July 29, 2014, the City of Chicago released to the public a set of documents long sought by journalists and civil rights lawyers. Here they are.

In 2006, journalist Jamie Kalven wrote a series of blog posts entitled "Kicking The Pigeon" (prev.), based on a number of police abuses experienced by his friend and Stateway Gardens resident, Diane Bond. Kalven's series sparked conversation around law enforcement oversight and access to public record. It also lead to a federal civil rights case. Ultimately Bond settled with the city, but Kalven petitioned to move forward with certain parts of the case as an intervening-appellate.

Specifically, he was interested in "voluminous material relating to citizen complaints against [Chicago] police officers". The battle for transparency has been protracted but ultimately led to a favorable ruling and the release of (some) of the documents in question through a FOIA request earlier this week.
posted by stinkfoot (25 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I just learned about all of this within the past couple hours, so I'm sure I've glossed over things a bit - hopefully Chicago mefites can help with the texture.
posted by stinkfoot at 8:56 PM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Goddamn this kind of stuff is infuriating. I mean, I'm glad the documents were released, but it's a pretty narrow set of circumstances in which I can imagine a city has a compelling interest in keeping information like this under wraps. It really gives the impression that there's a lot of damning information they don't want to see the light of day, which is unconscionable for government in general and police in particular.
posted by Ickster at 9:07 PM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you try and look at the released docs contained in the last link, you'll get a nastygram that the site is untrusted and uncertified. YMMV, just a warning.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 9:14 PM on July 31, 2014


That's a pretty staggering number of "no action taken" 600s. I'm sure it's just a few bad apples, of course.

Six hundred and sixty or so bad apples.
posted by mhoye at 9:19 PM on July 31, 2014


I was brave stupid enough to agree to the site and it is just a link to the first site same as the "Here they are" link
posted by 724A at 9:20 PM on July 31, 2014


Wow; I just spent a few minutes scrolling around that doc, and I can't find a single instance where an action was taken.
posted by mhoye at 9:21 PM on July 31, 2014


Michael Connolly served a fifteen day (015) suspension in from Aug to Nov of 2001. There might be more, but that's the only one I've found so far.
posted by kneecapped at 9:24 PM on July 31, 2014


And he was reprimanded sometime between Oct 2002 and Jan 2004. He must be a badass.
posted by kneecapped at 9:27 PM on July 31, 2014


I was brave stupid enough to agree to the site and it is just a link to the first site same as the "Here they are" link

If you take out the "s" in https:// on that link, the warning goes away. It's possible either they didn't pay for an encryption certificate, or didn't want to have their name attached to the purchase of it, or just don't know how to install it properly, or simply the added "s" was a typo somewhere along the line. All that is really doing is encrypting the info between you and the server. It's also interesting to mention that the NSA actually worked hard to promote the idea that "someone could be watching - maybe even the government!" so that the warning you see was as scary as possible even to tech savvy people, in order to keep people from using or putting any trust in unsigned SSL certificates that they wouldn't have easy access to the keys to decode it, and have to devote extra time to decrypt it (discussed here). I could see certain people involved with this other than those named in the 'about' page would want to be as hard to find as possible. The last thing you want to be in this town is on the police's shit list.

As long as you're not submitting any personal info to the site, you should be just fine as a reader.
posted by chambers at 9:44 PM on July 31, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've been sitting in Tableau training for two days. I wish this was a SQL dump. Might have to make it one. I love my city but need to take a hard look at this.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 9:48 PM on July 31, 2014


I look forward to the day when FOIA requests must be responded to with electronic readable documents.

I feel like people go through more work (and cost) than needed to help ensure that govt released documents are as difficult to read/parse/analyze as possible.
posted by el io at 9:50 PM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


I feel like people go through more work (and cost) than needed to help ensure that govt released documents are as difficult to read/parse/analyze as possible.

For them, it's time well spent.
posted by mhoye at 10:03 PM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Every police officer should be recorded their entire time on shift, ideally video and audio.
posted by klangklangston at 12:08 AM on August 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


News Flash !! --- People without money and/or access to good legal representation are getting hosed. Film at 11..

Every police officer should be recorded their entire time on shift, ideally video and audio.
posted by klangklangston at 2:08 AM on August 1

Yes, if the law had cameras on their helmets and hats, there wouldn't have to be laws which some states have which make it illegal for you to film them.

Even if just from the sidewalk, or in your own yard, cop sees you filming and goes ape-shit.

Remember the cops doing all they could to steal phones from people who jumped onto the BART after filming the cop shooting the guy laying on the ground?

If I didn't know that I lived in the land of the free and the home of the brave, I'd be concerned about these things.
posted by dancestoblue at 1:17 AM on August 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


News Flash !! --- People without money and/or access to good legal representation are getting hosed. Film at 11..

The thing that bothers me about this kind of sarcastic response is that it seems like it's trying to be sympathetic while simultaneously implying this is so common so as not to be noteworthy. No good purpose is served by not speaking up about this.

It certainly is news when this happens, regardless of its frequency. As it should always be.
posted by JHarris at 4:01 AM on August 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


Yeah, the pages and pages of "600 No Action Taken" and the long list of "Not Justified / Not Sustained" on the excessive force complaints. Just, wow.
posted by xedrik at 8:12 AM on August 1, 2014


I think I found the winner - Jerome Finnigan.

53 misconduct complaints (pg 2-3) in the first pdf, 8 excessive force complaints (pg 11), and the highest misconduct complaints at 63 (pg 179-180).

However Mr Finnigan isn't listed on the "early intervention programs" list and even where the complains list 'sustained' the code shows "900 - not served".
posted by anti social order at 8:14 AM on August 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you want to donate to the University of Chicago's Mandel Legal Aid Clinic that brought the civil rights lawsuit, their donation page links to a general kintera.org U. of Chicago page. The Area of Giving you want (it's a long drop-down list) is "Law School: Mandel Legal Clinic". I'm glad there's a non-violent way to channel my rage at the involved officers in the Kicking the Pigeon series, because g-d damn.
posted by morganw at 10:16 AM on August 1, 2014


> there wouldn't have to be laws which some states have which make it illegal for you to film them

There aren't. A letter from the DOJ to Baltimore Police lays out the 1st amendment issues. There are two-party consent wiretapping laws in some states that have been used against people who video cops, but they've been struck down in Illinois & Massachusetts & aren't likely to survive protracted legal wrangling anywhere else much longer. Not only were the charges against Glik dismissed, the police were denied qualified immunity and he was able to sue them.

If you read the 4th amendment vs. qualified immunity blog, police4aqi, you'll see that knocking down qi, even in egregious cases, is as hard as piercing the corporate veil, so the win in the Glik case ought to be enough to get police depts. around the country to retrain their officers. Guess we need a a few more.
posted by morganw at 11:08 AM on August 1, 2014


"Yes, if the law had cameras on their helmets and hats, there wouldn't have to be laws which some states have which make it illegal for you to film them. "

Yeah, there was just a scandal here where LAPD officers who were testing out the new video system were disabling their cameras. But they found that even with that, there was a dramatic decrease in the number of misconduct and excessive force complaints.

Which, honestly, is part of how it should be pitched, since cops do get hit with bullshit complaints by people unhappy with any impinging of the law onto their activities — monitoring all of it makes it easier to protect both cops and citizens. Hell, even the dash cams cut complaints against cops in traffic stops.

I will also say that Chicago cops will probably fight this as part of their long campaign to be the worst police in a major American city. I remember my dad (who grew up in Chicago) talking about the first time he got a flat after moving to Milwaukee in the late '70s and a cop rolled up. My dad was astounded that the cop didn't hit him or demand a bribe, and instead just helped buffer traffic. Like, seriously, not being assaulted, harassed or extorted was such a novel experience that it blew his mind. And as far as I know, the CPD never had to do any of those federal compliance orders that cleaned up the LAPD significantly. LAPD is still kinda fucked, but at least it's not the marauding horde that it was.
posted by klangklangston at 11:18 AM on August 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


"CPD never had to do any of those federal compliance orders that cleaned up the LAPD significantly"

Well, Daley the First did bring in O.W. Wilson back in the 60's who, in turn, did bring us out
of the police-run burglary rings and "Crime Story" rubber hose era before he (Wilson)
retired in '67. We've always been short a Wilson or two since then, sadly. *cough* *cough*
1968 *cough* cough* ... Chicago is a little different than LA in the respect that here,
snitches AND cowboys are suspect. Beat, but don't brag, etc.
posted by Chitownfats at 11:46 AM on August 1, 2014


Yeah, there was just a scandal here where LAPD officers who were testing out the new video system were disabling their cameras. But they found that even with that, there was a dramatic decrease in the number of misconduct and excessive force complaints.

My knee jerk reaction to this is that if a cop is accused of something and his cameras somehow didn't record the event in question (gee, how could that have happened?), he should automatically be ruled guilty of the accusation. Of course, it doesn't take very long to think of a situation where that becomes abusable. But is there a version of that that's less awful? Some way to really discourage the cop from tampering with the video to cover up illegal and/or unprofessional conduct?
posted by IAmUnaware at 1:05 PM on August 1, 2014


Well, yeah, make it a crime to tamper with the cameras, which I would hope would be the next step (since it's only policy, the first step would be making it an administrative discipline-worthy offense, then a crime).

"We've always been short a Wilson or two since then, sadly. *cough* *cough*
1968 *cough* cough*
"

Or Fred Hampton in '69.
posted by klangklangston at 1:14 PM on August 1, 2014


Well, the problem I see with just making it a crime to tamper with the cameras is that the cop can always pretend it was an equipment failure or something. Yeah, that's suspicious, but it doesn't seem like suspicious is generally enough to get a police officer punished for doing something he shouldn't be doing (hence this post). I think we need a much harder rule. Basically, the burden of proof needs to be on the police when there's question about their conduct. If we're going to license these people to carry extremely lethal weapons and in some cases to lawfully exercise deadly force, we need to hold them to some very strict standards. If we don't, well, we end up with the situation we're in today, where some of us are protected by the police and some (most?) of us need to be protected from the police.
posted by IAmUnaware at 1:24 PM on August 1, 2014


Some way to really discourage the cop from tampering with the video to cover up illegal and/or unprofessional conduct?

If a suspicious pattern of behavior is established (i.e. 2-3 camera malfunctions coinciding with complaints or accusations of misconduct depending on severity), it seems logical to push for some form of regulation that would either temporarily reassign that officer while the situation is investigated and reviewed, or, that the officer is assigned a partner for a set period of time from another precinct (perhaps from a group of regular officers selected by Internal Affairs) to provide a more... reliable, let's say, video source and submit periodic reviews of the officer in question. I feel fairly comfortable assuming that the incidents listed in the main post were not some unexpected, isolated event for the officers in question. Behavior like this grows slowly, and often finds some internal justification and outside acceptance by their peers with each progressive step. In addition I think that implementing programs that can prevent the development of the attitudes and behavior seen in these officers might be an achievable goal. Addressing the worst of the 'bad apples' after the fact is one thing, but to find ways to go after the elements in their environment that create and foster such awful behavior are just as important.

Of course, it doesn't take very long to think of a situation where that becomes abusable.

If it was just a 'no video, officer is guilty' or a 'no video, no case' doctrine, I'm sure soon after people would be digging up old electromagnetic bulk tape erasers and such and with a little creative planning and 'McGyvering', deliberately interfering with the equipment either to void an arrest, or at worst, frame or extort a police officer by accusing them of actions they did not commit. With such a rule in place and a little planning, criminal groups could either remove officers that are giving them a problem, establish a pattern of harassment to assist them in a future case, or just ensure that the officer looks the other way when needed.
posted by chambers at 12:17 AM on August 2, 2014


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