Cops could be disciplined for accessing arrest report

April 22, 2011 6:54:48 PM PDT
Disciplinary action may be taken against as many as 1,000 Chicago police officers. An internal police memo says those officers violated procedure by accessing the arrest report on two other officers who are under investigation in a possible sex assault.

The police union is defending officers who reviewed the report.

It's a heater case: Two cops -- on duty -- allegedly pick up a drunken young lady, drive her home in the squad, play strip poker, and have sex with her.

The story is all over the news. The arrest report is accessible to cops through the department's internal computer system, and apparently a lot of cops chose to look at the report, by some estimates more than 1,000.

A memo from internal affairs -- sent department wide and published on the SecondCityCop blog -- warns officers that access to information is "restricted to official police business" and that doing so for "personal or other reasons is strictly prohibited."

Internal affairs is considering disciplinary action against officers it feels accessed the report for personal interest.

"Blanket discipline is ridiculous. It's a waste of 1,300 pieces of paper," said Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Pat Camden.

The Fraternal Order of Police says there is no logic to disciplining a huge number of officers for looking at an arrest report, something they routinely do, even if the level of visits might be heightened by curiosity.

"Officers have access to this equipment," said Camden. "Had the department not wanted anything released, why didn't they block it? That's available on the system. They could have blocked access to it. That wasn't done."

If there is punishment it could conceivably come in the form of a SPAR, a Summary Punishment Action Request. That's a mild written reprimand that goes in an officer's personnel jacket. It can disappear after a year unless the officer accumulates other SPARs that suggest other issues.

The department says it is looking at several issues, including who accessed the report, and for what purpose.

"If somebody violated a department rule or general order, then go after that specific individual and punish him accordingly," said Camden.

The issue appears to be not so much that officers would view the arrest report -- it's information which is pretty basic -- or the case report, which has more detail; it's whether or not someone with access prints the report and then perhaps makes it available to people who are not party to the investigation. Like reporters.

The department won't say whether it intends on actually pursuing broad-based discipline or if it is zeroing in on specific officers.

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