Oak Lawn’s administration has changed course again regarding the release of police reports and Mayor Sandra Bury is refusing to provide the documents to the public or even other elected officials. This marks a change in position from the middle of April 2014, when the village announced that it was sending all Village Trustees every police report in the village.
Prior to that date, Trustees were being provided only the police reports in their individual districts. Trustee Robert Streit had requested the reports for all the districts and received confirmation that all the Trustees would now begin receiving all the reports.
At the September 22, 2015 meeting, Streit raised the issue of whether he was receiving all of the police reports. He said that he follows and tracks the reports and noted that some were not being provided.
He specifically asked Mayor Sandra Bury if she had any objection to him receiving all the police reports as a matter of policy. Bury answered, “Trustee Streit, whoever requests them (the reports) they should be out there. I don’t care as long as its not obviously a minor or something like that a victim of you know sexual assault.” During that conversation, Bury claimed that the reports were provided and asked Streit to provide examples of reports he wasn’t receiving. Streit said that the Mayor’s tone was accusatory in the meeting in what he thought was an attempt to make it appear that all the reports were being provided.
However, less than ten days after the meeting, on October 1st, Bury emailed the entire Village Board telling the board:
The Oak Lawn Police Department does not release reports related to crashes, domestic related incidents, juvenile information, confidential information (for example, ongoing drug investigations), investigations in other municipalities, medical information, sexual offenses, financial information, reports created in error, abandoned vehicle reports, stolen license plates, animal complaints, lost or stolen property, etc.
Streit said he is “stunned” that the village has chosen to make a policy decision of that magnitude without discussing it publicly. “There is no rhyme or reason to the list of reports and most of the categories listed by the Mayor aren’t even a category for a crime,” said Streit. Specifically, he noted that there is no crime called “medical information” or “juvenile information”.
Streit said that he would like the entire Village Board and Mayor to discuss the matter publicly and establish a policy regarding the release of these reports. However, Mayor Bury has instead asked board members to “… advise me individually to assure compliance with the open meetings act.”
Streit said that the discussion should be in open session and by doing so the village would be complying with the Open Meetings Act, which he said requires decisions to be made in public.
Streit said that the Mayor is claiming that the release of all the reports would require extensive redaction, an excuse that Streit labelled as “ridiculous”. He said that accident reports would not require any redaction and that with the exception of sexual assault victims and juvenile offenders, no other information can be denied to the public.
He said that he is very concerned that sexual assault reports are not being provided. “If we have a sexual predator on the loose, we want to be able to protect our families and our neighbors”, said Streit. He said that he can’t believe that the other Trustees have agreed to this “policy” without any discussion.