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Aldermen discuss possibly removing arrest records from city website

Ald.+Cicely+Fleming+%289th%29+discusses+the+removal+of+arrest+records+from+the+city%E2%80%99s+website+at+a+Human+Services+Committee+meeting+on+Monday.+The+records+are+available+on+the+Evanston+Police+Department%E2%80%99s+page+on+the+website.
Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) discusses the removal of arrest records from the city’s website at a Human Services Committee meeting on Monday. The records are available on the Evanston Police Department’s page on the website.

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) discusses the removal of arrest records from the city’s website at a Human Services Committee meeting on Monday. The records are available on the Evanston Police Department’s page on the website.

Noah Frick-Alofs/Daily Senior Staffer)

Noah Frick-Alofs/Daily Senior Staffer)

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) discusses the removal of arrest records from the city’s website at a Human Services Committee meeting on Monday. The records are available on the Evanston Police Department’s page on the website.

Samantha Handler, Assistant City Editor

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Aldermen discussed temporarily taking down arrest records from the city’s website at Monday’s Human Services Committee meeting, after an alderman noted the records are currently searchable online.

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) requested a review of the city’s posting of the Daily Crime Bulletins and the length of time they should be made available to the public. Arrest records are open to the public unless they regard an ongoing or active investigation, according to the memo, but are supposed to be blocked from search engines.

Fleming said she searched several names from 2015 and 2016 bulletins, and the documents came up in her search. Noting Evanston already publishes the bulletins in emails and provides them to the media, Fleming said she would like the city to rethink the current system.

She added that many of those people may have had the arrests expunged or pled guilty, and that there is no way to tell the case’s resolution from the bulletins. She also expressed concern that the searchability of bulletins could be harmful for someone searching for a job.

“I’m a big believer in once a person has committed whatever crime they have or served whatever time or paid whatever fee, there’s no reason particularly for us as a city to continue to advertise that,” Fleming said. “It’s a mistake that they’ve made, and we hope that they have moved on as productive members of society, but there’s no reason for us to keep that there.”

The Daily Crime Bulletins, which are posted to the Evanston Police Department’s page on the city’s website, contain information on “selected incidents” and arrests from initial police reports, according to the city memo. Bulletins dating back three years are available online, according to the document, and the oldest bulletins are deleted at the end of each calendar year.

Currently, 5,202 people receive the bulletins through the email subscription, according to city documents. The city’s legal department said in the memo that the department has taken the email service into consideration.

According to the memo, there is no legal order or authority that requires the city to remove or alter arrest records after a certain time period. Under the Freedom of Information Act and the Illinois General Public Access Opinion, the bulletin must be issued with identifying information, the document said. The memo also said there is no technological or logistically practical way to remove the names.

Fleming requested that the city remove the records from the website, and look at how to move forward with the archived bulletins. She suggested that keeping them up for one calendar year would be sufficient.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said she agreed with Fleming’s request to review the process, especially since the city is also looking at alternative options to arrests that would make sure that young adults do not end up with a “record” that could prevent them from getting a job or leading a successful life.

“We (should) try to work on meshing what we want to do in terms of making sure that young people don’t have things on their record that prohibit their advancement later in life and make sure that we’re not doing something with our arrest records that conflicts with what we’re trying to do (in other areas),” Revelle said.

Email: samanthahandler2021@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @sn_handler

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