Despite history of improperly withholding “street files” from criminal defendants, CPD tries to keep information secret under FOIA that could lead to exonerations
For years, the Chicago Police Department hid from criminal defendants potentially exculpatory information in secret unofficial “street files.” In response to widespread criticism of this practice, CPD changed its policies to require that the detective notes previously kept in street files be kept in “General Progress Reports” and made part of the official records of an investigation.
Against this backdrop, James Walker and Jeff Boyd, both incarcerated for more than 25 years, used the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to seek copies of CPD’s investigative files related to the 30-year-old homicide investigations that led to their convictions. But CPD refused to produce General Progress Reports from those files, claiming that they are exempt from disclosure as “opinions” expressed during the “deliberative process” of an investigation.
“CPD’s claim is a perversion of this exemption,” said Loevy & Loevy FOIA attorney Matt Topic. “The exemption is very limited, and applies only to the expression of opinions during the give-and-take of deliberations over a policy decision, not a detective’s notes of factual information gathered during an investigation. It is meant to protect policymakers from deliberating in a fishbowl, not detectives who are supposed to be neutrally recording all of the relevant facts.”
“How many men and women were convicted of crimes without seeing the underlying investigative documents?” asks Attorney Candace Gorman. “And now that the existence of these investigative files has come to light, the City wants to continue to withhold the most important documents from these files. This policy has to be stopped.”
A copy of the complaint is available here: Walker v. CPD Complaint – file stamped.