Private uni’s subject to FOIA says House

Staff Report

Police records on private college campuses must be open to requests through the Freedom of Information Act under a measure that passed the House Friday.

House Bill 3932 provides that police on private campuses must respond to FOIA requests within five business days, which is the standard for other public bodies.

The measure also opens up private university police to review by the Public Access Counselor if there’s a challenge to a records request denial.

“Right now, private police forces don’t have to release any of their information, unless they feel like it. So when it comes to the example of the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD), which is the largest private police force in Illinois, they don’t have to release any of their information,” explained Sofia Butnaru of the Campaign for Equitable Policing, a non-partisan group focused on policing practices of the UCPD, told Progress Illinois.

Butnaru said that U of C “recently decided, though, because they knew the bill would come up, that they were going to release some [information], but it’s basically up to their discretion what they do release.

“And that’s obviously problematic, especially with the UUCPD, which polices 65,000 people,” she continued. “(That’s) a large population compared to the actual amount of people who are affiliated with the university, which is a lot smaller.”

While enforcement records would fall under the influence of the new law passed by the house employment matters of police on private university campuses would not be subject to FOIA.

“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,” said bill co-sponsor Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago).

“I’m encouraged by the momentum for this bill which is a testament to the hard work that groups like the Campaign for Equitable Policing and others have done in pushing the conversation around transparency and accountability between our communities and local law enforcement.”

The measure passed the House unanimously and now heads to the Senate.

Contribution from Illinois News Network reports.

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