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Independence Eve Fireworks FOIA Update

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Mike Doyle

Since 2005 scribe of the local blog, Chicago Carless. I invite you to visit.

fireworksbeforedark On July 6th, I reported on potential violence along the lakefront during Chicago's Independence Eve fireworks. The next day, in consultation with my Chicago Now editor, I filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests on several city agencies. Now thirty days later, here's what I've heard back.

To recap, in July, popular Chicago police blog Second City Cop and several of my Twitter followers reported violence during Chicago's Independence Eve fireworks in and around the Taste of Chicago grounds in Grant Park. The city (including Megan McDonald, Executive Director of the Mayor's Office of Special Events)--and, as a result, local media--said eyewitness accounts shared on the Internet and reported on Chicagosphere were wrong.

Those eyewitnesses said otherwise, and local online media debated the story for several days (see Gapers Block, Windy Citizen, Chicago Carless, the Beachwood Reporter, Chicagoist, Huffington Post Chicago, Second City Cop, and the WBEZ Chicago Public Radio blog.)

To try to get to the bottom of things, I wrote a mini-guide on filing FOIAs (the July 7th article), and filed my own to request the following information from the following agencies:

  • From the Office of the Mayor--Any and all reports received from city agencies regarding security issues at the Taste of Chicago;
  • From the Chicago Police Department (CPD)--911 call tapes from the evening of July 3rd; and
  • From the Chicago Fire Department (CFD)--Records of EMS transports during July 3rd for the entire City of Chicago.

The CPD was the most responsive. I heard back by phone within a week--if only to be told to FOIA the city's Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which is the actual civic office that maintains 911 records.

The CFD took almost a month to call--I heard from them this week. They told me they were holding my request until I gave them a move specific geographic location than citywide.

The Office of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley...ah, the Mayor's Office. As you might expect (I know I did), I haven't heard anything at all from there.

My own responses regarding what I heard back from CPD and CFD are in the works, again in consultation with my editor, including an OEM FOIA, a potential geographic answer for CPD, and perhaps even seeking July 3rd lockup records from various other sources. As for the Mayor's Office, I'm considering placing a counter in the sidebar of Chicagosphere to measure their unresponsiveness.

In months, apparently.

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2 Comments

Lou Grant said:

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Mike, Nice aggressive stuff. I've been advised not to file FOIA myself, but rather to use an attorney to file on my behalf. I'm not sure of the why for this tactic, but I've been led to believe that there is a legal issue, if it goes to court, that makes your request better. Maybe, talk to the editor about this?

Good luck with that mayoral request.

Mike Doyle said:

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Thanks for the tip, Lou.

On an unrelated note, kudos to Megabus for providing WiFi! I blogged this morning from the top-deck, front-row picture window of a Megabus pointed at Milwaukee for a opening day at the Wisconsin State Fair.

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