The public now has access to Chicago police misconduct records courtesy of the launch of a new online database called the Citizens Police Data Project.
The database is born out of a more than 10-yearlong partnership between the Invisible Institute and the University of Chicago Law School's Mandel Legal Aid Clinic. The database offers a look at complaints made between 2001 and 2008 as well as March 2011 through March 2015.
"Transparency doesn't happen on its own. It's up to us as citizens to make it happen and address abuses when they occur," said Jamie Kalven, founder of the Invisible Institute and the plaintiff in Kalven v. City of Chicago, a lawsuit that made police misconduct records public in 2014. "Information is key to our ability to do that."
"To be clear, this information does not tell us whether an officer is abusive or not," Kalven added. "But what it does tell us is complaints are not being properly addressed, and until now, the public hasn't been given the department's own evidence of that."
Some 56,370 misconduct complaints are listed in the database, and less than three percent of claims lead to disciplinary action, according to the Invisible Institute. Additionally, the pool of officers that had multiple complaints lodged against them saw an even smaller percentage of disciplinary action. Black Chicagoans waged more than 60 percent of the complaints in the system, but less than 25 percent of those claims were supported.
Here are some additional findings available via the database, as provided by the Invisible Institute:
Punishment for proven offenses is not aligned with the offense. The average discipline for administrative violations, such as having secondary employment, was 16.5 days, while the average punishment for proven rape or sex offenses was six days.
Most officers, around 80% of the total force, have zero to four complaints, and approximately 90% receive zero to 10 complaints.
Officers with more than 10 complaints, who represent 10% of officers, account for 30% of all complaints, and have four times the amount of misconduct complaints per officer as the rest of the force. These repeat officers have an even lower rate of "sustained" findings - 4% versus 9% for the rest of the department - with only 0.05% (1 in 2,000) of these complaints resulting in a major penalty.