Journalist Jamie Kalven sues CPD for withholding records in Laquan McDonald case

Staff Writer

Polk Award-winning journalist and human rights advocate Jamie Kalven has filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department (CPD). Kalven is suing the department for withholding investigation records into the cover-up of Officer Jason Van Dyke’s killing of Laquan McDonald.

The lawsuit is as a result of CPD’s denial of a record request in November of last year Kalven submitted under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Kalven is seeking records from a probe into the department’s handling of the 2014 police shooting.

The Office of the Inspector General of Chicago at the request of the Independent Police Review Authority (IRPA), CPD Superintendent conducted the misconduct investigation.

According to the suit, the Inspector General’s investigation found that at least 11 officers and supervisors were involved in the cover-up of the shooting of McDonald and had committed serious misconduct.

The Inspector General provided final reports of his investigations into the officers involved in the McDonald case to the CPD, but CPD denied Kalven’s request of these records stating that investigations by the Inspector General are exempt under the Illinois FOIA.

“It is controversial cases such as the Laquan McDonald cover-up that are most likely to be referred to the Inspector General,” Kalven said in a written statement. “The CPD’s reading of the law would lead to an unacceptable outcome. Citizens would be denied access to information about precisely those cases in which there is the most intense public interest.”

Van Dyke shot McDonald a black teenager 16 times in October 2014. Kalven was one of the first journalists to investigate McDonald’s death. His reporting along with the public release of a video of McDonald’s murder sparked nationwide protests and debate about police accountability and public safety.

The aftermath of McDonald’s death also led to a probe into the CPD’s past and present by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The scathing 100-page report released in January found that CPD officers, “engage in a pattern or practice of using force, including deadly force, that is unreasonable. CPD officers’ force practices unnecessarily endanger themselves and others and result in unnecessary and avoidable shootings and other uses of force.”

Kalven was the plaintiff in the 2014 decision of the Illinois appellate court Kalven v. City of Chicago. The ruling from the case established that closed investigations of police misconduct are public information.

“The CPD’s denial is based on a misreading of the relevant law,” said Craig Futterman, of the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic of the University of Chicago Law School, in a written statement.

Futterman was lead counsel in the Kalven case and is representing Kalven in this suit along with Matt Topic and Joshua Burday at Loevy & Loevy.

“The IG reports, now in the possession of the CPD, are the equivalent of closed IPRA investigations,” Futterman said. “Under Kalven v. Chicago, they are public information.”

Following the court decision, the Invisible Institute a non-profit Chicago-based journalistic production company that works to enhance the capacity of civil society to hold public institutions accountable, created the Citizen’s Police Data Project, which is the largest interactive database on police misconduct.

It contains more than 56,000 Chicago police misconduct complaints about more than 8, 500 officers. According to the data tracked in the database, less than 3 percent of allegations lead to disciplinary action, with even lower rates for officers charged with numerous complaints.