Chicago Actually Did Something Good For Police Transparency

Chicago Actually Did Something Good For Police Transparency

Today, Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority released video, audio and other material from 101 cases of police shootings and other officer-related incidents.

The database, which is searchable by incident type, incident date and keyword, comes with a “viewer discretion advised” warning. The cases, which are still being investigated, concern officer-involved shootings (whether a person was struck or not), and cases in which a person died or was seriously injured while in police custody. The videos, which are available for 68 of the cases, include dashcam recordings and surveillance footage.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the release — which IPRA chief administrator Sharon Fairley called “historic” — is the official start to a new pro-transparency policy approved by Rahm Emanuel in February. The mandate requires Chicago to make public audio, video and police reports from incidents that fall into the above categories, as well as taser-related incidents that lead to “death or great bodily harm“.

The release comes amid a fevered call for greater transparency within the city’s police department. In November, officials finally released a video from the 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald at the hands of a police officer. Though the officer, Jason Van Dyke, was charged with murder, the city waited more than a year to release the video; even then, it only did so after it was hit with a court order. Following the video’s release, protesters called for the resignation of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In April, the Police Accountability Task Force released a no-holds-barred report that asserted Chicago police have “no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of colour”.

The video — not to mention a long history of mistrust of the police force by the community — prompted the IPRA to release the videos.

“These past few months, as the city has struggled with so many questions about policing and about police accountability, it has been clear that we all agree that there is a lack of trust, and that increased transparency is essential to rebuilding that trust,” Sharon Fairley said. “Today represents an important first step toward that.”

Chicago’s police department has had issues staying above the fold even when video and audio are involved, but here’s hoping the threat of releasing these incidents publicly can start to introduce some badly needed change. Across the US, too, there has been a growing chorus calling for greater transparency among police departments — perhaps other states will follow Chicago’s lead on this.

[Chicago Tribune]