Seven years ago, the University of Chicago Law School’s Mandel Clinic successfully represented Diane Bond, a public housing tenant repeatedly abused by a team of gang tactical officers at the Stateway Gardens development.
In the course of discovery in the Bond case, the City of Chicago produced lists of officers with more than ten complaints against them over a five year period. Journalist Jamie Kalven, who had written a series of articles about the Bond case, intervened and challenged the protective order as applied to the lists. Federal Judge Joan Lefkow ruled in Kalven's favor.
“Without such information,” she wrote, “the public would be unable to supervise the individuals and institutions it has entrusted with extraordinary authority to arrest and detain persons against their will. With so much at stake, the defendants simply cannot be permitted to operate in secrecy."
When the City sought a stay of Judge Lefkow's order pending appeal, a headline in the Chicago Sun-Times asked: "What Are They Hiding?"
Today we know the answer to that question, because the City has released the lists at issue in Bond, as well two other lists generated in another civil rights case, Moore v. Chicago.
Upon receiving the documents, Kalven immediately made them universally available on the website of the Invisible Institute (http://the.invisible.institute/news/).
“After arguing for the better part of a decade that documents of this nature are public,” he said, “it gives me great satisfaction today to complete the process of making them so.”
In 2009, Judge Lefkow's decision in Bond was reversed by the United States Court of Appeals. Represented by the Mandel Clinic, Kalven then sought the same documents—as well as the Moore lists—under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.
More than ten Clinic students worked on Kalven v. Chicago under the supervision of Professor Craig Futterman and in close collaboration with Jon Loevy and Samantha Liskow of Loevy & Loevy and Flint Taylor and Ben Elson of the People's Law Office. Two students—Italia Patti, '14, and Saul Cohen, '14—argued the case before the Illinois appellate court.
On March 10 of this year, the Illinois appellate court held in Kalven v. Chicago that documents bearing on allegations of police abuse are public information. On July 11, the Emanuel administration announced it would not appeal Kalven and outlined its new transparency policy for implementing the decision.
“The Chicago Police Department is opening itself to the public in an historic way, paving the path toward a new era of police accountability. The Lists released by the City are a powerful tool—they have the potential to reveal officers who have engaged in patterns of serious abuse,” said Professor Futterman.
“For far too long, the Department has refused to investigate these patterns,” Futterman added. “These lists can help us weed out officers who destroy innocent lives and dishonor the thousands of officers who protect and serve us every day. The impunity with which those abusive officers have operated has broken the public trust, resulting in historically low clearance rates for solving violent crime in many Chicago neighborhoods. It’s up to all of us to use this tool to create a better and more effective Police Department.”