Illinois high court: Police records cannot be destroyed

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled last week that the city of Chicago may not destroy records of police misconduct that are more than five years old, despite a contract with city’s police union that requires city officials to do so.

In a 6-1 ruling Wednesday, the high court said that a state law requiring public records to be maintained supersedes a provision in the city’s contract with the union.

The decision comes at a time when police departments throughout the country, including the Chicago Police Department, have been the target of protests and civil unrest in the wake of the May 25 killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The provision in the contract with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 7 requiring the city to destroy records of investigations and discipline arising from police misconduct has been the subject of litigation and arbitration for nearly thirty years.

The provision dates back to 1981 and has remained largely unchanged since. The current language states that, “All disciplinary investigation files, disciplinary history card entries, Independent Police Review Authority and Internal Affairs Division disciplinary records, and any other disciplinary record or summary of such record other than records related to Police Board cases, will be destroyed five (5) years after the date of the incident or the date upon which the violation is discovered, whichever is longer.” (Read more)