The Office of Inspector General (OIG) has completed an inquiry into the practice of members of the Chicago Police Department (CPD or the Department) performing background checks on individuals signed up to speak at Chicago Police Board meetings. The practice of conducting background checks on Police Board meeting speakers was a longstanding one, going back as far as 2006. Neither CPD nor the Police Board was able to account for who initiated the practice or for what purpose, beyond nonspecific security concerns regarding visitors to the City’s Public Safety Headquarters. This practice raised the specter of infringement of the First Amendment rights of members of the public who chose to speak at Police Board meetings, ran afoul of laws and regulations regarding use of CPD databases, and strained public confidence in both CPD and the Police Board. Moreover, this practice came to light at a critical time in the City’s efforts to foster public trust in its public safety institutions, and necessary and overdue efforts by the Department to meaningfully and respectfully engage with members of Chicago’s communities. CPD discontinued the practice of performing background checks on Police Board speakers in July 2019.
OIG’s advisory recommends measures to ensure that the practice of using CPD databases to perform background checks on members of the public who engage with the City’s public safety institutions will not reoccur, particularly as CPD and the City work to broaden and deepen the opportunities for that engagement.