Transparency Win in Chicago Police Records Case

Judge lifts Fraternal Order of Police injunction previously barring release of police misconduct records

CHICAGO –(ENEWSPF)–July 8, 2016.  Today an Illinois Appellate Court ruled to vacate an injunction secured by the Fraternal Order of Police that had blocked access to police misconduct records older than four years. Now the Chicago Police Department must disclose police misconduct records, from 1967 through the present, through the Freedom of Information Act — records that the FOP had argued should be destroyed.

This comes two years after Kalven v. City of Chicago, a watershed court decision in Illinois that made police misconduct records public. As a result of the Kalven decision, the Invisible Institute, a journalism production company on the South Side of Chicago, published the Citizens Police Data Project, the largest interactive database of police misconduct, which launched in November 2015 and is supported in part by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the nation’s leading funder of journalism and media innovation.

The Invisible Institute obtained about 11 years worth of city data through Freedom of Information Act requests and civil rights litigation. In a bold move for open government, in 2015, the City of Chicago agreed to turn over its full list of misconduct complaints for all officers, dating back to 1967, to the Invisible Institute, Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. However, access to this information was blocked by a temporary injunction secured by the FOP that barred the City from releasing all but the last four years of data. The FOP argued that release of the information would violate the terms of its contract with the City. The City appealed, and the Invisible Institute filed an amicus brief in support of the City’s position. Now the Court of Appeals has ruled that the records must be disclosed.

In response, Jamie Kalven, founder of the Invisible Institute, released this statement:

“The court has confirmed that citizens have a right to know about police abuse, past and present. This information belongs to them. Now it’s time for the Illinois legislature to act by embodying this principle in state law.  We need legislation that protects police disciplinary records against future threats of destruction. At Invisible Institute, we look forward to the day when we can incorporate the information at issue into the Citizens Police Data Project and make it available to the public.”


The Invisible Institute is a nonprofit Chicago-based journalistic production company that works to enhance the capacity of civil society to hold public institutions accountable. Toward that end, we develop strategies to expand and operationalize transparency. We seek to make visible perspectives too often excluded from public discourse. And we develop social interventions designed to leverage necessary reforms. Among the tools we employ are human rights documentation, investigative reporting, civil rights litigation, the curating of public information, conceptual art projects, and the orchestration of difficult public conversations.

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

Source: The Invisible Institute