CHICAGO (AP) - Chicago police officers have opted to grieve their punishments more often in recent years in a lengthy process that can delay not only punishment for officers, but information getting to the public about police wrongdoing, according to a newspaper investigation.
The Chicago Tribune analyzed city data and found that as of mid-December, 280 disciplinary grievances remained open, including seven cases that were filed roughly six years ago. Officers filed only 48 disciplinary grievances in 2010, but that number jumped to 200 in 2015 and 134 last year.
Officers can dispute and sometimes avoid or reduce their punishments by filing a grievance. Officers are allowed to work while their cases are pending.
It's unclear how many open cases are going through a typical grievance process. A police spokesman said the Chicago Police Department's Management and Labor Affairs Sections can't track all of its cases without opening individual files.
It's also unclear how many are open because department officials never got a response from the police union. The current union contract with Chicago police doesn't set a deadline for the Fraternal Order of Police to act once a grievance passes initial deadlines.
"For them to deflect to us is a bit unfair but not untypical," said Dean Angelo Sr., who heads the local FOP chapter. "There's a lot of musical chairs going on ... at MLAS and sometimes these files sit dormant for a long time until someone picks them up."
The delay in closing cases also means information about police misconduct doesn't quickly get to the public. As long as the cases are idle, the police department refuses to publicly release records about the wrongdoing. And misconduct finding don't appear in officers' personnel records.
Former federal prosecutor Ron Safer, who co-wrote a 2014 report for the city on preventing and disciplining police misconduct, said delays in the process don't help anyone.
"It is not good for the police officer to have the sword dangling over their head for years, and it is not good for the complainant, and it is not good for the public," Safer said.
Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com