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Monday, June 13, 2022

Court Upholds Denial of Request for Shooting Incident Records as Unduly Burdensome

After an officer-involved shooting incident in 2020, a police department (CPD) received FOIA requests asking for various records about the incident, including audio and video recordings. The CPD produced certain records, but also withheld others based on several FOIA exemptions, including applicable law enforcement exemptions and the unduly burdensome exemption. The requestors filed a lawsuit against the CPD alleging that (1) the CPD improperly withheld requested records, (2) failed to conduct a reasonably diligent search, and (3) willfully and intentionally violated FOIA by denying their requests. The trial court ruled in favor of the CPD, finding that it had proved that the requested records were exempt under applicable FOIA exemptions, that it had conducted a sufficient search for the records, and that it did not willfully violate FOIA. On appeal, the plaintiffs challenged the trial court’s finding that the CPD properly withheld the requested records, and iKraft v. Chicago Police Department, the Appellate Court also ruled in favor of the CPD. 

First, the Appellate Court held that the CPD demonstrated that the requested records were exempt under FOIA’s unduly burdensome exemption. Specifically, the Appellate Court found that the categorical request seeking all videos and emails related to the incident was unduly burdensome because the CPD’s affidavits indicated that it would take CPD personnel at least 213 hours of review to review 71 videos, as well as at least 1,000 hours to review 30,000 potentially responsive emails. 

Second, the Appellate Court rejected the requestor’s allegation that the CPD failed to confer with the requestors in good faith, finding that the CPD affidavits established that it offered the requestors an opportunity to narrow their requests to more manageable proportions, but the requestors failed to do so. Although the Appellate Court acknowledged that the public has a significant interest in obtaining information related to officer-involved shootings, CPD demonstrated that its burden of complying with the request outweighed the public’s interest in this information, because (1) the requestors refused to extend the time to respond to these categorical requests beyond 10 business days, which placed a significant operational strain on the CPD during the pandemic, (2) responding to this request would require the CPD to review over 30,000 records which would require more than 1,200 hours of work, and the requestors failed to reduce the scope of their requests, and (3) the CPD did not foreclose the possibility of providing some records in the future based on receiving modified requests.

Post Authored by Eugene Bolotnikov, Ancel Glink


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