Aldermen who want a list of police officers with the most excessive force complaints over the last five years will have to wait a little longer after a federal judge on Thursday denied their request for the document.
Lawyers for 28 aldermen asked U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow to make the list available, but Lefkow said the question of the list being released already is in the hands of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Matthew Piers, an attorney for the aldermen, said the group was simply asking Lefkow to have Mara Georges, the Daley administration's chief attorney, abide by previous promises that an unredacted list of the officers' names would be made available to them.
"We have agreed to make the confidential documents available to any City Council member who requests them," Georges wrote in a July 13 emergency motion seeking a stay of Lefkow's prior order to make the records available to the public.
Subsequent requests by aldermen for the information have been denied as the city has sought to maintain the confidentiality of the list.
Lefkow said her earlier order releasing the documents has been stayed while the higher court handles the question of the list's release. That seemingly was the same question being put to her again Thursday, the judge said.
Lefkow has said she would not stand in the way of the city turning over the list to the aldermen. But it is a political decision whether that happens, she said.
"I don't have a dog in this fight," Lefkow told the lawyers, including Georges, in her courtroom Thursday.
The aldermen have other options too, the judge said.
"If the aldermen want to sue the city to get the documents because they have some legal entitlement to them they can do that," Lefkow said.
Aldermen have been given a version of the document, but with the names of the officers redacted. The records showed that 10 officers assigned to the police department's Special Operations Section had 408 allegations of wrongdoing filed against them, and of those complaints just three were sustained by the Office of Professional Standards.
After the hearing, Piers said it remains his view that the only thing keeping the full list from being released is the judge's protective order supervising discovery in the underlying case. He said he would go back and discuss legal options with the group of aldermen.
Ald. Ed Smith (28th) attended the hearing and said the group seeking the release of the list would press ahead. The information is important data that the public should have, he said.
Smith said he's not opposed "to doing what we have to do to get the information out there." And that could include suing the city, he said.
"If we have to do it, I'll support it," Smith said.
Other aldermen said further options would be explored.
"[Our lawyers] feel they have a good chance" of success, Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said. "We are going to continue to press the issue. The issue is not going to go away."
Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th), who made a request for the list that was denied, said she did not see Lefkow's decision as a major setback.
"I am not discouraged at all," she said. "The judge said she didn't have jurisdiction, so we will take it to the court that has jurisdiction," she said of the appeals court.
Mark Donahue, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said Thursday that he believes the aldermen are trying to get the names for political gain. He said he could see no good in releasing the names.
"We firmly believe that this attempt by these aldermen is irresponsible," Donahue said. "We recognize a need for transparency in government. However, that need must be balanced against the importance of protecting the officers, their family and the community at large."
The Fraternal Order of Police has filed an amicus brief, a document in support of the city's position not to release the names, with the appeals court. Doing so would unfairly call into question the officers' credibility, when many of the allegations are unsubstantiated, it argued in the brief.
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