OIG Review of Compliance with the City of Chicago’s Video Release Policy for Use of Force Incidents

The Public Safety Section of the City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has concluded a compliance evaluation of the City of Chicago’s release of materials pursuant to its Video Release Policy (Policy). The Policy requires that the City publicly release, within 60 days of incident, “videotape and audiotape and certain specified police reports” related to specified types of use-of-force incidents – certain types of firearms discharges, taser discharges resulting in death or great bodily harm, and use-of-force against individuals in police custody resulting in death or great bodily harm involving Chicago Police Department (CPD or the Department) members.

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) is responsible for identifying all use-of-force incidents governed by the Policy and publicly releasing the related materials. CPD’s Crime Prevention and Information Center (CPIC) is responsible for notifying COPA of all such use-of-force incidents. COPA relies on other agencies, notably CPD and the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC), to provide it with video and audio files subject to disclosure under the Policy.

OIG’s evaluation found that COPA is not in full compliance with the requirements of the Policy in that COPA does not publicly release all relevant materials for all use-of-force incidents mandated by the Policy within 60 days of the incident.

OIG’s evaluation found the following:

  1. Inconsistent with the Policy, COPA does not always post video, audio, and police documents within 60 days of the incident date;
  2. CPIC personnel’s lack of understanding of notification guidelines render it uncertain as to whether CPIC has notified COPA of all relevant use-of-force incidents; and
  3. COPA exercises inadequately guided discretion in releasing materials other than those mandated for release by the Policy.

Collectively, the issues identified by OIG have impaired full compliance with the Policy.

To ensure that COPA is notified of and releases all Policy-mandated incidents and materials in the 60-day timeframe required by the Policy, OIG recommends several modifications to the City’s Video Release program. COPA should improve certain internal processes and collaborate with OEMC and the Mayor’s Office to develop interagency processes that support the timely delivery of material COPA requests from OEMC. COPA and CPIC should co-develop notification guidelines that are clear and binding, and train CPIC staff to execute them. Additionally, CPD should adopt these guidelines into a binding directive. Lastly, OIG recommends that the Mayor’s Office, the Department of Law (DOL), and COPA review the Policy’s criteria for release, discern whether additional criteria should be included in effort to appropriately guide the discretionary release of non-mandated material, and that DOL update the Policy accordingly.

COPA agreed with OIG’s recommendations and stated that, in the past year, the agency has collaborated with OEMC on processes to ensure timely OEMC responses to COPA requests. CPD agreed with OIG’s recommendations, additionally providing that CPD will work with COPA to develop clear guidelines for notifying COPA and that CPD will develop a directive outlining CPIC’s responsibilities with respect to notifying COPA of all appropriate incidents. OEMC agreed with OIG’s recommendations, stating they will work with COPA and the Mayor’s Office to address changes to the process, technology, and personnel needed to implement them. The Mayor’s Office agreed with OIG’s recommendations and stated that it will work with each agency to address the identified issues and recommendations.