Early morning on Oct. 26, 2017, a lone Chicago police SUV was found heavily damaged in a sewer ditch that had been under construction at 83rd Street and Woodlawn Avenue in the Avalon Park neighborhood.
Two police officers were injured, including one who had to be cut out of the car by firefighters. The officers’ names and genders were never released, though police did release their ages, 25 and 33.
NBC 5 Investigates wanted to find out what caused the crash, but CPD denied four separate requests under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, asking for video, audio, crash reports, toxicology reports, and more. Late last year, Chicago Attorney Matt Topic of Loevy & Loevy filed a lawsuit on behalf of NBC 5 Investigates, seeking the records. City attorneys however, have continuously fought the lawsuit ever since, saying they cannot release the records because the police department is still investigating.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Topic. “It’s a complete invitation for mischief that allows the police department to withhold everything about the conduct of its officers so long as they keep their investigation ‘open.’”
On the day of the crash, the construction site was heavily marked with signs and concrete barriers. City officials were not sure how exactly the incident happened but revealed the officers were not in pursuit of another car.
“We’re not sure if the construction zone was properly marked (or if) somebody moved some of the barriers,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said later that morning. “We just don’t know.”
Chicago police said the investigation was being handled by the department's Bureau of Internal Affairs but did not give a timeline on the inquiry nor potential discipline the officers could face.
“The Chicago Police Department is still conducting an investigation into this incident and therefore the records are being properly withheld at this time,” said a city law department spokesman via email. “Once the investigation is complete and any discipline is imposed, the records can be released in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act.”
Topic said the lawsuit may go to trial next year, as the search for answers in the case enters its third year.
“Anyone who’s been involved in a car accident knows from experience that it does not take two years for police to investigate what happened,” said Topic. “So, the idea that in a single car accident, involving police officers as drivers, that it would take this long for them to conduct the investigation, they need to conduct strains logic.”