In a recent Illinois court case the 4th District Court of Appeals in Springfield has ruled internal affairs files are a public record regardless of the outcome of the probe.
I, for one, would be curious to learn if this same case law could be applied to other forms of government entities, such as Child Protective Services internal investigations. If so, this could have far reaching ramifications for those seeking justice for their children.
As public servants, their files should be open to public scrutiny. It’s time we held these agencies accountable for their actions.
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Appeals court declares police internal affairs files public records
In a case some argue could throw open the long-standing secrecy behind police internal investigations, the 4th District Court of Appeals in Springfield has ruled internal affairs files are a public record regardless of the outcome of the probe.
Attorneys specializing in Illinois public records law said Thursday it is the first such ruling of its kind in the state and therefore binding on trial courts statewide. It could also have repercussions for long-running complaints about Chicago police brutality.
“This opinion is part and parcel of a general feeling that government in Illinois needs to be more transparent than it has been,” said attorney John Myers, who argued the case on behalf of Springfield dentist G. Mark Gekas.
Police and government agencies have long denied public access to records of internal affairs investigations, citing a portion of state law that protects citizens from a “clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
The appellate court shot down that argument.
“What he does in his capacity as a deputy sheriff is not his private business,” Appleton wrote. “Whether he used excessive force or otherwise committed misconduct during an investigation or arrest is not his private business. Internal-affairs files that scrutinize what a police officer did by the authority of his or her badge do not have the personal connotation of an employment application, a tax form, or a request for medical leave.”