A Hoffman Estates lawyer who heads an online project designed to track how police report and solve murder cases in Illinois and nationwide says the Illinois State Police have withheld data from him and the public, and a judge should order them to turn over the information.
On Dec. 3, attorney Thomas Hargrove, director of the Murder Accountability Project, filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court against the Illinois State Police demanding the department release to Hargrove and the Murder Accountability Project information on homicides in Illinois which he said the ISP “no longer reports to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report and Supplementary Homicide Report.”
Hargrove is represented in the action by attorney Matthew Topic, of the firm of Loevy & Loevy, of Chicago.
The lawsuit specifically seeks so-called “supplementary homicide data,” which Hargrove said the ISP hasn’t reported to the FBI since 1994. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, supplementary homicide data includes not just murders, but also “negligent” and “nonnegligent manslaughter” cases and those cases “suspected to be murders, violence-related manslaughters, law enforcement-related killings and homicides committed in self-defense.” The data also could include “additional details about each homicide incident, including the jurisdiction, month, year, victim and offender demographic characteristics, weapon, the circumstances surrounding the incident … and the relationship between the victim and offender,” the BJS said.
Since 1994, however, the ISP has reported “only the number of homicides,” also opting not to report the number of “homicide clearances,” or the number of murder incidents solved.
While nationally, about 60 percent of all murder cases have been solved since 1995, according to the Murder Accountability Project’s website, no comparison can be drawn for Illinois, as the ISP hasn’t reported the clearance rate for murder cases taken up by police agencies within Illinois for more than two decades.
Hargrove said he has attempted since July to request the data the ISP hasn’t reported to the FBI since 1994 under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. The complaint acknowledged the ISP has turned over some documents. The department has also told him the information he seeks is available online. But Hargrove said the department has not provided any specific URLs to assist him in tracking down the information, and for the most part has told Hargrove the information and documents he has requested do not exist.
Hargrove said he does not believe this to be true.
“ISP clearly possesses additional data it has not produced,” Hargrove said in his complaint. “For example, ISP possesses Supplementary Homicide Report type data created for enhanced case-level reporting for crimes involving youth, domestic violence and school personnel as required by the Illinois legislature.”
He said such data is reflected in the state’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program reports.
He said he believes ISP “has willfully and intentionally violated FOIA by withholding responsive records that are clearly non-exempt and claiming that it possesses no such responsive documents.”
In his complaint, Hargrove has requested a judge to declare ISP has violated FOIA, to order the state police to “produce the requested records redacting only the material that is exempt, and to pay civil penalties and plaintiffs’ attorney fees.