New bill would require more transparency from the UCPD

Freedom of Information Act requests would apply to UCPD as to a public agency.

By Marta Bakula

A proposed amendment to the Private College Campus Police Act would require campus police forces such as the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) to provide more transparency in their current police practices.

Last Friday, House Bill (H.B.) 3932 was introduced in the Illinois General Assembly by State Representative Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25) (A.B. ‘68, M.A. ‘73). She proposed an amendment to the Private College Campus Police Act that would require campus police forces subject to this act to publicly disclose any information that other law enforcement agencies would have to provide under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Because the UCPD is a privately funded police force and not a governmental agency, it is currently not subjected to the requirements of the FOIA.

If passed, the bill would require the UCPD to disclose any information that is requested, unless the information is protected from public disclosure by specific record exemptions. Under the FOIA, the UCPD would also be required to automatically disclose certain information, including records frequently requested by the public.

“I’ve heard many comments and concerns from people in our community about the lack of information available on University of Chicago police interactions with the public,” Currie said in a statement. “In response, I’ve introduced legislation that, I hope, will provide greater accountability.  I believe we are all best served when the public’s relationship with law enforcement is open and transparent.”

State Representative Christian L. Mitchell (D-26) (A.B. ’08) co-sponsored the amendment. Both Currie and Mitchell represent portions of Hyde Park.

“For me, this bill is about building trust between all of our local law enforcement agencies—including the UCPD—and the surrounding neighborhoods and communities that they serve,” Mitchell said in a statement. “It’s about making sure that the same level of transparency that the public has with the Chicago Police Department also exists within the University of Chicago Police Department.”

If passed, the bill would meet some of the major demands of the Campaign for Equitable Policing (CEP), a South Side group committed to ending racial profiling in the UCPD.

Last March the CEP delivered a petition to UCPD headquarters, demanding public release of current police rules and regulations, amendments to the accessibility of the complaints policy, and an establishment of a process for releasing information to the public. The petition garnered the support of Student Government (SG) and more than 800 signatures, but records continue to remain private.   

“[Transparency within the UCPD] has been one of CEP’s central asks for the past two years, a topic for which we have petitioned and protested,” fourth-year and head of the CEP Ava Benezra said. “We commend Representatives Currie and Mitchell for being so responsive to community concern, and hope that the University quickly follows suit.”

University spokesperson Jeremy Manier said the UCPD already makes some of its information public.

“The University is committed to making information about UCPD activities available to the public, and we do so through a variety of channels,” Manier said. “We are continuing to evaluate these processes to ensure that the information is as accessible as possible.”

The first reading of the bill took place last Friday, and it was immediately referred to the Rules Committee, but no further actions have been taken thus far.