* Press release…
Last week, the Illinois Supreme Court handed down their near unanimous decision in favor of the City of Chicago in a case against the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police. The FOP filed suit against the city for failing to destroy police disciplinary records after five years per their collective bargaining agreement. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that requiring the destruction of police disciplinary records after five years violates public records law.
The decision is being heralded as a positive development in the wake of a growing police reform movement. There was only one member of the Supreme Court who disagreed - Justice Thomas Kilbride of the 5th Judicial Circuit. Both conservative justices from downstate (Garman, Karmeier) and liberal justices from Chicago (Burke, Neville, Theis) came together to recognize the illegality and bad faith nature of the FOP’s effort to protect cops with a history of disciplinary actions, but Kilbride stood alone in dissent (dissent here, starting on page 17).
Even more troubling than Justice Kilbride’s decision is the glaringly obvious motivation for him to be the lone dissenting vote. The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police was his saving grace during his 2010 retention campaign as he came under attack for his record on crime. The FOP and other police groups rushed to his defense and came through for Kilbride with an endorsement and major campaign support. Kilbride ran his retention campaign with a central theme as being a strong ally to law enforcement, even touting an award from the Illinois Crime Commission / Police Athletic League of Illinois and each of his ads painting Kilbride as “tough on crime.”
Kilbride’s decision to allow the destruction of police records after only 5 years is contrary to the police reform movement that Republicans and Democrats are embracing nationally, in which legislation would require law enforcement to retain records for longer periods of time. The just-released “Justice Act” authored by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) requires 30 year record-keeping.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider pointed out the obvious, saying, “It’s clear why Justice Kilbride felt he needed to be the lone voice against positive police reform that conservatives, moderates and liberals all agree upon. Kilbride is up for a tough retention campaign and needs the support of the FOP and other law enforcement groups that bailed him out in 2010. Political calculations should have no place in the decision making process of our judiciary. Justice Kilbride should be ashamed.”
Kilbride will need 60 percent of the vote to be retained in November, so this is one way to prevent that from happening. The FOP leans heavily Republican, but you use what you got, in other words. So, the FOP goes under the bus.
* From Kilbride’s dissent…
I respectfully dissent from the majority. My disagreement with the majority has nothing to do with the records that are the subject of this appeal. I firmly believe that police misconduct must be rooted out, and I would vehemently oppose the indiscriminate destruction of police misconduct records. That is not what the arbitrator ordered in this case.
Rather, the arbitrator’s award merely directed the parties to meet and negotiate. The arbitrator did not order the destruction of any records. We do not know what agreement, if any, would have resulted from the parties meeting and negotiating. We do not know whether those negotiations would have resulted in an agreement for the future destruction of any records. We also do not know whether they would have resulted in an agreement that fully complied with the Local Records Act (50 ILCS 205/1 et seq. (West 2016)) and all other applicable laws. I believe the parties should be allowed to meet and negotiate in accordance with the arbitrator’s directive. This court could retain jurisdiction and remand for negotiations. After proceeding with negotiations, it would be warranted for this court to review the status of any agreement.
To repeat, the issue of police misconduct is a serious issue that must be confronted by society. This court was asked, however, to consider a fundamental principle of labor law, namely, the validity and enforcement of arbitration awards.