On September 14, 2017, CALL held its first business meeting of the 2017-18 year at Nacional 27, 325 W. Huron Street. There were 82 registered attendees. President Clare Willis called the meeting to order at noon and she welcomed new CALL members:
- Emily Byrne
- Anne Danberg
- Laura Kopen
- Colleen McCarroll
Vice President Joe Mitzenmacher welcomed and thanked the meeting sponsor, ktMINE, for their generous support. ktMINE is a Chicago based company that has developed an intellectual property data and analytics platform. The platform organizes public intellectual property information that is scattered and difficult to locate in one place. Using the platform, one is able to search royalty rates, patents, license agreements, M&A, and trademarks for business intelligence and more.
Meeting Speaker: Stephen Rushin, Assistant Professor of Law at Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Joe introduced the meeting speaker. Professor Rushin specializes in criminal law, police accountability, and empirical legal studies. Before joining Loyola, he taught at the University of Alabama School of Law and the University of Illinois College of Law. His talk at the meeting focused on his article published in the Duke Law Journal, “Police Union Contracts,” 66 Duke L. J. 1191 (2017).
Professor Rushin’s research focused on the question: do union contracts act as a barrier to police officer accountability? He stated that citizens often ask themselves why are the police, who are notorious for misconduct, not held more accountable and why are police officers not subject to rigorous discipline. He noted that while Chicago has had several high profile incidents of police misconduct and of police not being held accountable for misconduct, this is actually a nationwide problem.
Citizens also question why cities do not do more to prevent police brutality. Professor Rushin’s empirical research suggested that the collective bargaining process was largely to blame for this, because two-thirds of police officers are members of unions, and lax disciplinary standards are often bargaining chips in union contract negotiations. He noted that expunging records, statutes of limitations on disciplinary actions, 48-hour waiting periods, and limits on investigating anonymous complaints are all used as negotiation bargaining chips. To conduct his research, he looked at police union contracts from 200 agencies in 41 states. Most of the data was easily accessible public information–60% of the data came from municipal websites and 20% from state repositories. A small percentage of the data came from union websites and record requests.
His initial findings showed that the questionable clauses in union contracts are very common and are not at all unusual. Stephen suggested that the biggest barrier to police accountability was the mandatory waiting period—police misconduct investigations cannot begin until the waiting period is over. The median waiting period is 48 hours. And most contracts have rigid waiting periods.
This is contrary to investigative best practices that generally recommend getting to the officer as quickly as possible after the incidents. Some other items that also act as a barrier are the police officer in question’s access to the evidence and the limit on anonymous complaints. He also listed several other common barriers: the subject of a misconduct complaint’s ability to access the name and address of complainants, limitations on the length of an investigation (usually the investigative period is very brief), purging internal disciplinary records after a set period of time, and limitations on police oversight.
Professor Rushin’s next research question that resulted from this research is, what do we do about this? What are the implications and recommendations that may come from this research? Collective bargaining is not necessarily the cause of the problem, but rather internal procedures are likely to be causing the problem. And the exclusionary rule and civil litigation is not as helpful as one would think. Professor Rushin plans to continue to research the issue, but at this point he asserts that making the bargaining process more public would be a step in the right direction. He argued that salary negotiation should remain private, but discipline issues should have public input.
CALL Member Questions
Where did the clauses that permit investigative delay and access to evidence come from?
We do not know. It is not a just a big city problem, but Stephen has not gotten to that in his research yet. There seems to be little change so this has been a problem for a long time.
Is this a similar arrangement with other civil servants (teachers, fire fighters, etc..)?
Police would argue for more procedural protections because the social cost calls for more rigorous oversight. And, police do get unique procedural protections.
Is there comparable data for non-US law enforcement? What do other countries do?
This is an interesting question and should be explored further. Stephen’s research currently only focuses on law enforcement in the United States.
Are collective bargaining processes public?
It varies, some municipalities make it public and others do not. It also depends on the police lobby in the area.
Is there tracking of outcomes of police complaints?
Most departments do not track this and it is very difficult, but there is an effort for more public involvement. However, there is also a concern for officer morale. Studies show that morale goes down when there is federal intervention, but there is also evidence of depolicing.
What about data on false claims of misconduct?
There is no good data on that.
Do police feel that they are under siege, or do they feel there are there a few bad apples?
Safety and constitutional rights are ranked as the most important when police chiefs are surveyed. And, they agree reform is needed. But the sentiment on the front lines is not the same. There is often a disconnect between the two.
Clare thanked Rushin for the thought-provoking and informative talk.
Debbie Rusin, Placement and Recruitment Committee
Debbie provided an update on the committee’s plan for the year. It plans to publish a column in the Bulletin, hold a couple of continuing education sessions, and host at least two meet-ups. She also announced that the mentorship bank is back in effect.
Julie Swanson, Community Service Committee
Julie announced that the September community service project is Chicago Volunteer Legal Services. She also reminded the lunch attendees that there was still time to register for Race Judicata. And she unveiled the CALL t-shirts for the event designed by Scott Vanderlin.
Diana Koppang, Continuing Education Committee
Diana announced that the program materials from the recent continuing education program about submitting proposals to AALL are available on the CALL website. She also mentioned that the next scheduled event is “Executing at the Level of Wow.” The event will take place at Neil Gerber. She also mentioned that the committee plans to host an event every month through June. And, the final event will be an AALL preview, showcasing all the CALL members’ presentations.
Door Prize Drawing
Clare and Joe thanked LexisNexis for providing the door prizes at the meeting. The winners were Rosemary Milew of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin and Joanne Kiley of International Legal Technology Association
Adjournment and Next Meeting
Clare adjourned the meeting and reminded the membership that the next business meeting will be held on November 16, 2017 at the Berghoff.