Police Chief in Hot Water Over Document Shredding

Getting a Freedom of Information Act request filled can be a labor-intensive process, and many requests languish for days, weeks or months without any response at all, let alone a response that includes the requested information and documentation.

A FOIA request for Internal Affairs data submitted to the police department in Springfield, Ill. was one of the lucky ones: a month after it was submitted, police had the documents on hand, and a FOIA officer may have been days away from sending them off.

But they’ll never make it, because the department’s chief signed a memo changing the expiration date on IA documents from five years to four, and in a matter of days, all documents on file for more than four years were promptly shredded.

Now, Springfield aldermen are demanding answers. From FOX Illinois:

First Ward Alderman Frank Edwards summed up his biggest problem with the details surrounding [Chief Robert] William’s decision.

“They signed the MOU on the 25th of this month, last Thursday, and on the 26th they sent out a letter saying ‘oh sorry all those documents are shredded,'” Edwards said.

In those shredded internal affairs documents were reports that were included in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Edwards said the request was submitted more than a month ago. The memo was signed about a week ago.

Last December, the city council approved a contract for the police officer’s union which stated internal affairs records would be kept for five years.  Williams said he made the change mainly to be more efficient, and make it easier to fulfill the department’s influx of FOIA requests. One alderman doesn’t buy it.

“To hang it on efficiency? We have a police budget of about $38 million, we have 250 employees in the police department, and shredding documents is going to make us more efficient? Really?” Edwards said.

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