Review of the Chicago Police Department’s Management and Production of Records

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) has completed a review of the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD or the Department) processes for managing and producing its records for criminal prosecution and civil litigation arising out of law enforcement activities. CPD is involved in both criminal and civil litigation, since its investigations and corresponding records are used as evidence in both types of proceedings. CPD, both directly and as an entity acting on the government’s behalf in a criminal case, is required by law and the United States Constitution to disclose evidence in its possession, with certain exceptions; those obligations include but are not limited to those enumerated in Brady v. Maryland and Giglio v. United States and their progeny, Illinois state law, and Court-promulgated rules of civil procedure.

OIG found that CPD’s processes for identifying and producing records are inadequate to comply with its constitutional and other legal obligations due to the following:

  • CPD’s Subpoena Unit and Office of Legal Affairs (OLA), the units responsible for responding to subpoenas and records requests, cannot ensure that they are identifying and locating all responsive records for production. The Department lacks the means to determine what records may exist for any case or incident, making it impossible to know whether it has identified and produced all relevant records.
  • When receiving a request for “any and all” relevant records (i.e., requests with broad language) including but not limited to certain specific records, Subpoena Unit members routinely fail to conduct a thorough search beyond the specific categories of records enumerated, in order to satisfy the broader request. 
  • When the Subpoena Unit receives subpoenas with broad language, members routinely do not attempt to identify paper records, as they cannot determine which of CPD’s units may hold such records. 
  • CPD does not systematically track its production of records. Records produced by individual CPD members, as well as records from CPD units sent directly to litigants, are not uniformly recorded, or otherwise documented in a comprehensive tracking system.
  • CPD does not have adequate processes in place to ensure that records it produces are relevant to the case for which those records are being requested (e.g., CPD may produce body-worn camera footage including hours of footage involving non-related incidents). Additionally, CPD processes lack clarity as to who bears responsibility for notifying OLA to review responsive records, and when such notification can or must occur; this risks the disclosure of records which may raise privacy and public safety concerns.

OIG conducted interviews with 19 CPD members and 20 stakeholders to collect data for this report. OIG found that the stakeholders, including judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and civil rights attorneys, based on direct observation and experience, regard CPD’s records management and production processes to be ineffective. Retrieving records from CPD generally requires multiple production requests to various CPD units and members. Stakeholders expressed frustration with the large variations in time for CPD to produce its records—production for some cases may take a few months while for other cases it may take years—and a lack of confidence in CPD to produce all appropriate records at all. Some stakeholders found it difficult to communicate with CPD to resolve these issues.

OIG concluded that CPD’s records management and production processes are inadequate to meet its constitutional and legal obligations. To correct the existing problems, OIG recommends that CPD develop Department-wide records management and production policies, procedures, and trainings to ensure that CPD members understand their own, the Department’s, and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s legal and constitutional obligations to effectively identify and produce records. Additionally, CPD should develop and implement a records management system that allows for the effective and efficient identification of records across CPD’s various units, systems, and physical locations. Finally, OIG recommends improved communication, coordination, and transparency with stakeholders to develop these policies, procedures, trainings, and systems, and to resolve any issues moving forward.

CPD agreed with most of OIG’s recommendations regarding its production of records. OIG commends CPD for its proactive development of an upcoming records production directive and standard operation procedures within units. CPD agreed to audit its production processes and to capture those processes in its ongoing Department-wide staffing analysis. With respect to certain recommendations which CPD did not agree to implement, such as those relating to the automation of all records, the Department cited concerns over staffing and resource scarcity. While CPD’s implementation of a software solution to improve production-related tracking and communications is commendable, OIG notes that the improved tracking of subpoena responses does not result in improved quality or completeness of subpoena responses; that is, CPD’s efforts to improve production-related tracking and communication does not address its inability to ensure that it is identifying all relevant records so that they may be produced. OIG continues to encourage CPD to provide consistent, enterprise-wide, management-driven guidance to its constituent units and to address the identification and review issues highlighted herein.