City Balks at Turning Over Police Shooting Records

A Cook County Circuit Court judge has blasted a decision by attorneys for the city of Chicago in their refusal to release records detailing how Chicago police officers shot and killed a 17-year-old.

In blistering comments from the bench on May 11, Judge Neil Cohen called the city’s position a joke and, “antidemocratic. We’re not in a fascist state yet,” he said. “If you’re right, you’ve just moved the ball forward towards it.”

In July 2014, Warren Robinson was shot 16 times after fleeing police. Robinson was a juvenile and that is what is at the heart of the dispute in turning over investigative records.

A spokesman for the city of Chicago Law Department in a written statement said the city “is prohibited from releasing law enforcement records that relate to a minor who has been investigated, arrested or taken into custody before his or her 18th birthday.”

Warren Robinson---after a chase---was shot 16 times by Chicago police while hiding under a car. Officers said Robinson pointed a gun at them and they fired, striking him five times in the chest and arms and 11 times in the back, according to autopsy records.

Pat Camden, a Fraternal Order of Police spokesman at the time, told reporters that night, “when police tell you to drop your gun, drop your gun and nothing is going to happen.”

The Independent Police Review Authority ruled the shooting justified and released Robinson’s name.

The city’s denial of investigative records, Judge Cohen said during the May 11th hearing, means an officer’s actions won’t “be subject to scrutiny when he shoots a juvenile, and that’s the tail wagging the dog.”

City officials initially denied NBC 5’s Jan. 13, 2016 request for public documents citing the state Juvenile Court Act. NBC 5 appealed to the Illinois Attorney General’s office, which ruled the city—in part---violated the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. Following the ruling, the city refused—again—to release records involving the conduct of officers.

NBC 5 then went to court, represented by public records attorney Matt Topic of the law firm Loevy and Loevy.

NBC 5 wants to review the investigation of the police officers involved in the Robinson shooting. Despite the non-binding decision by the Attorney General’s office and the court order by Judge Cohen, city officials continue to deny the release of the records.

Attorneys for the city are expected to obtain a stay of Judge Cohen’s order to release the records pending their planned appeal.

Asked for comment a spokesman for the Law Department wrote in an email, “The City…has no objections to releasing these records” but is prohibited by legislation which enacted the Juvenile Court Act.

In his court order requiring the city to release the records of the Robinson shooting, Judge Cohen said the city can’t, “use the taking of that life as a cloak to shroud the officer’s action.”

All of this plays out as the trial in the death of LaQuan McDonald looms this summer. He, too, was 16-years old when he was shot 16 times. In that case, officer Jason Van Dyke is charged with first degree murder. He has pled not guilty.

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