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Release of Cop Discipline Records Blocked by Court

CHICAGO (CN) - Police won a court injunction blocking the Chicago Tribune and Sun Times from obtaining a list detailing complaints against city police officers.

The Wednesday injunction came one day after the Fraternal Order of Police, Chicago Lodge No. 7, petitioned the Cook County Circuit Court for relief.

In its petition, the union cited a provision in its contract with the city that sets a five-year limit on Chicago's retention of "all disciplinary investigation files," and certain other records.

After five years from the date of the incident, or the date upon which the violation is discovered, whichever is longer, the files must be destroyed, the union said.

The union noted that there is a seven-year window for retention of "not-sustained files alleging criminal conduct or excessive force."

With certain exceptions, the files cannot thereafter be used "against the officer in any future proceedings in any other forum," its complaint states.

Chicago's failure to destroy personnel records has long been the subject of grievances, the union says, and the issue arose again when the Tribune and Sun Times requested "lists" of police officers under the Freedom of Information Act.

The union says that Chicago was planning on a Halloween reveal of "lists of officers 'containing information related to complaints lodged against officers' covering the time period January 1, 1967 to the present."

"The lists to be furnished include the names of thousands of current and former sworn department members with complaint histories maintained by the department," the union's petition states, quoting an alleged Oct. 23 notification from the city.

Citing its belief "that the lists contain inaccurate information which would unfairly and vexatiously harm the individual officers named therein," the union said it deserves a chance to review the lists for accuracy and redact or otherwise appropriately modify "any and all inaccurate information."

One of the lists in question is 6,995 pages long, according to the complaint.

"The fact that the city maintains these lists is a clear indicator that it violated its collective bargaining agreement with the lodge, the union says.

Disclosure of the list would also violate the Illinois Personnel Review Act, which says that employers must review and delete any disciplinary actions over 4 years old before releasing personnel records to a third party, according to the petition.

The union also says disclosure would "expose the affected individual officers to public humiliation and loss of prestige in their employment."

An arbitration hearing set for Feb. 27, 2015, will assess two grievances with the city and police department about records retention, the union notes. On Tuesday, the union also filed a complaint with the Illinois Labor Board.

The union says it faces a Nov. 5 court hearing on its petition. It is represented by Baum Sigman Averbach & Neuman.

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