Advocacy group calls for more accountability from Chicago city officials
The State of Illinois has instituted many solid transparency laws over the years, but it appears that these laws do not apply to many public officials, who flat out refuse to follow them, an advocacy group said.
One instance of the secrecy among the public officials who refuse to abide by the transparency laws involves the video of the shooting of Laquan McDonald. It took a court order for the City of Chicago to release the video back in 2015, which the city did begrudgingly.
The video caused a lot of backlash and fallout, which included the police officer who shot McDonald being charged with murder, the police officers who tried to help the officer by covering up the crime being subject to a new criminal investigation, the tarnishing of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s reputation, and the launch of a civil rights investigation by federal officials.
A task force that works directly under the mayor said the disciplinary system is “plagued by serious structural and procedural flaws that make real accountability nearly impossible.”
There have been some reforms implemented by City Council, but these are seen as more of a show than laws of actual substance in the eyes of community leaders.
If it weren’t for the court order by the judge last year, the City of Chicago would never have released the McDonald shooting video, but evidently, it is going to take more court orders to get City Hall to abide by the transparency laws.
Not only do the public officials refuse to follow these laws, but the Chicago Police Department obviously sees itself above the transparency laws as well, the advocacy group Reboot Illinois said.
Reboot Illinois, which recently published a guest-view piece written by Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association about the secrecy of public officials in the City of Chicago and the lack of transparency by City Hall, was stonewalled by the Chicago police force when it asked for records of fatal police shootings of civilians.
“When we requested reports and videos earlier this year on every fatal police shooting of a civilian since 2010, CPD refused, invoking an exception to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by claiming too much work and not enough public interest,” the Reboot Illinois article said. “Fortunately, Cook County Judge Kathleen Kennedy affirmed what most of us already knew — this epitomizes a public interest request — and she ordered CPD to release all the material over the next six months.”
The Better Government Association is hosting an “Idea Forum” today called “Laquan’s Legacy: Police Reform in Chicago,” at which these issues will be featured.
The McDonald shooting and the refusal of the CPD to release materials of public interest will not be the only matters of concern discussed at the forum. Reboot Illinois also has promised to talk about the fact that it is still fighting to have emails relating to public business and official duties from Emanuel’s private email account released and why these emails are a matter of public interest.
“The city seems to think that, despite the devastating fallout from Hilary Clinton’s email scandal, public officials can circumvent FOIA by using private accounts for government work,” the Reboot Illinois article reads. “The city’s outside lawyers have been spending gobs of time — presumably at public expense — fighting us on this. Fortunately, another Cook County Judge, Sophia Hall, agreed that private emails don’t automatically fall outside FOIA, but the city still refuses to do the right thing by turning over the appropriate emails.”
As far as the emails go, no one wants the private, personal emails of Emanuel released. All that is being asked for are the emails on his private account that are related to official city business, which more than qualifiy as public interest due to the nature of the business and such business being conducted with taxpayers’ money.
Organizations in this Story
121 North LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60602