12/05/2011 05:49 pm ET Updated Dec 05, 2011

BGA Sues Chicago Police Department Over Unreleased Plainclothes Deployment Data

The Better Government Association has filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department in an effort to compel the release of plainclothes officer deployment data the department has refused to make public, citing safety concerns to circumvent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) transparency requirements.

The BGA requested documents showing where tactical units were deployed earlier this year, part of an effort to investigate officer placement and evaluate how often tactical units were operating outside their assigned districts, according to a press release issued by the watchdog agency. The BGA said their intention was to evaluate whether public safety was being served, and tax dollars spent pragmatically, by re-assigning officers.

(See the full text of the lawsuit here.)

"Here's the issue: the Chicago Police Department is one of the largest single expenses for city taxpayers--with around 14,000 employees and a budget of more than $1 billion," Andy Shaw, executive director of the BGA, said in a statement. "The public has a right to know how their money is being spent – and whether officers are being deployed in a fair and intelligent way to keep neighborhoods safe."

The CPD refused two prior requests for the data, first calling the request "unduly burdensome" due to the number of documents that would need to be processed, according to the BGA release. When the association replied with a more limited request, the department argued that releasing this deployment information could " measures" and "jeopardize the safety of personnel."

The BGA reports that they also reached out to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who campaigned on a platform of increasing transparency in the city, but say their calls went unreturned.

CPD would not comment on the suit, as per a policy against discussing ongoing litigation, Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Veejay Zala said.