CHICAGO (CBS) — A proposal to settle a lawsuit and keep thousands of police misconduct records under wraps stalled in City Council on Wednesday, as aldermen fight to create a public database to provide access to decades of misconduct records.
Earlier this week, the Finance Committee signed off on a $500,000 settlement with Charles Green who was convicted in a 1985 quadruple homicide and has been fighting to clear his name for decades.READ MORE: Police Officer Responding To Shooting, Struck By Bullet Fired By 15-Year-Old Gunshot Victim
Green, then 16, was eventually found guilty of getting one victim to open the door to a murderous ambush committed by two other men and was sentenced to life in prison.
“There’s never been a case of more obvious innocence,” said Jared Kosoglad, Green’s attorney.
He was released from prison in 2009 after a judge ruled critical victim testimony was not allowed at his trial. Green’s fight to prove his innocence included filing a Freedom of Information Act request, or FOIA, for all Chicago Police misconduct records in cases that have been closed dating back to 1967. Green then sued for the records after the city failed to respond to that FOIA, as required by law.
Earlier this year, a Cook County Judge ruled the city had “willfully and intentionally failed to comply” with FOIA requirements, and ordered the city to turn over all the files Green had requested by the end of 2020. The city already has turned over misconduct files dating back to 2011.
However, as part of the proposed settlement with the city, while Green would receive $500,000 in damages, he would give up his right to the files dating back to 1967.
Several aldermen voted against the proposed settlement in committee on Monday, arguing the city should be more open about police misconduct files.
“Are we missing an opportunity for transparency?” Ald. Sophia King (4th) said Monday.
“We need to have a schedule where we produce the closed cases and have a timeline,” Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said Monday.
Finance Committee Chairman Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) promised to work up legislation that guarantees a timeline for the release of those police misconduct records through a public database.
On Wednesday, Waguespack held the proposed settlement in committee, and said he has shared a proposed ordinance for the creation of a public database of completed misconduct investigation reports — also known as CR files — with his colleagues on the City Council.READ MORE: World's Smallest Flying Structure Developed By Northwestern Engineers
The ordinance would require the city’s Office of Inspector General to publish all closed disciplinary investigation reports on the office’s website; including all CR file numbers, the type of complaint, the officers involved, the investigating authority, a summary of the complaint, details of how the complaint was handled, and any other information the inspector general’s office “deems of value to the public.”
CPD, COPA, and the Chicago Police Board would be required to immediately provide the IG’s public safety deputy with any and all relevant records.
The inspector general also would be required to file semiannual progress reports with the City Council Committee on Public Safety and Committee on Finance — in cooperation with the Chicago Police Department, and Civilian Office of Police Accountability — on efforts to obtain, process, and publish those reports online.
The ordinance does not set a schedule for when the files would have to be available online, but would require the IG to begin posting the records in reverse chronological order “as quickly as practicable.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she agreed to the delay in final approval of the settlement to give aldermen more time for discussion about the plan to make misconduct reports more easily accessible for the public.
“There are lots of different ways in which those materials can be available, lots of different ways,” she said. “We will continue to engage with our partners in the City Council to come to, I think, a place where we can put even more CR files online in a searchable fashion so that people can have access to them.”
She also denied that the city had been trying to keep those complaints secret, noting that the city had recently prevailed in efforts to preserve all records of police misconduct, after the Fraternal Order of Police had sued to force the city to destroy records after five years.
Although city attorneys had warned during Monday’s committee meeting that delaying a final vote on the settlement could put the agreement at risk, Kosoglad applauded aldermen for holding off on final passage.
“Charles and I are both proud of the City Council for doing the right thing, even though it was difficult. Charles has fought 35 years for his exoneration. He took one step closer today,” Kosoglad stated in an email.
The City Council will not meet in August, due to its traditional summer recess, so the earliest the settlement can come to a final vote is September.
Several aldermen have asked for guarantees the database ordinance will move forward before a final vote on the settlement of Green’s case.MORE NEWS: Ed's Driveway: Volkswagen ID.4