Chicago police routinely reject public records requests, wrongly citing the law

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Freelance reporter Matt Chapman used Illinois’ public records law to reveal that the Chicago Police Department routinely rebuffs requests for records and incorrectly cites the law to justify denials. With a grant from the Fund, Chapman spent several months obtaining and reviewing 350 denials by the police department. In his comprehensive reporting for South Side Weekly, he found that police often made sweeping and generic claims about FOIA denials that failed to explain the reasons for them or show that the documents requested were exempt, as required by the law. In five cases, the police department denied requests by claiming the records were part of ongoing investigations, although those investigations had already been closed. Additionally, 40% of the department’s responses to FOIA requests in the period Chapman analyzed were provided only after they were overdue—in some cases by as many as 120 days.

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