After a demonstration in downtown Chicago ended in another heated moment between protestors and police officers on Aug. 15, nearly two dozen people were arrested and the Chicago Police Department (CPD) posted sensitive identifying information — including  mugshots and home block addresses — for some of them on social media. 

As Chicago Community Bond Fund Director of Programs Matthew McLoughlin watched things unfold, he couldn’t help but think how irresponsible and unfair CPD’s action was. He, like some aldermen — including Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd) and Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) — and residents across the city, opposed CPD’s choice to release arrestee information publicly, especially considering that they hadn’t been found guilty of a crime.

Since the arrests, CPD issued a statement that it wouldn’t release arrestees’ personal information on social media. But the department’s initial action sparked a conversation around the long-term impact of police releasing identifying information on some of the city’s most vulnerable residents. 

Since many of the protestors arrested on Aug. 15 were young people of color, some community leaders believe that CPD’s identification practices could cause even more harm, possibly leading to permanent criminal records, unemployment, trauma and hate crimes.

“It is particularly disturbing that we are in a moment where there has been an increase in white supremacist violence and threats against young Black people,” McLoughlin said, “And for the Chicago police to recklessly be putting people’s names and addresses and images online, it seems to be opening people up to harassment and potentially physical violence.”

McLoughlin said he knows at least a dozen activists who have received threats due to their personal information being made public after arrests. Although many of the cases from that day of protesting will likely get dropped or receive a much lesser charge, he said that people’s livelihoods including their jobs, homes and families, are at stake after being arrested, especially since mugshots and initial arrest information can end up in newspapers, TV news broadcasts or online news media sites.

“Some of the most significant impacts of pretrial incarceration are people losing their jobs, housing, and even custody of their children — all before being convicted of a crime,” McLoughlin said. 

“If one of these young people go to court and maybe they plead to something that is a lesser charge, but they are able to get it expunged, it’s theoretically not supposed to have an impact on their ability to get a job in the future, but the Chicago Police Department creating a lasting record is also not reflective of the reality,” he said.

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Throughout this summer of uprisings, organizers have made their calls for criminal justice reform loud and clear. In Chicago, there’s been protests almost everyday since late May around various campaigns, including #CopsOutCPS and #DefundCPD.

For the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, police reform in Chicago is a top priority. Karen Sheley is the director of the Police Practices Project at ACLU of Illinois. She said CPD’s practice of identifying suspects on social media deepens the distrust between the police and the community.

“What doesn’t happen is if an officer hurts someone on the street, that [incident] isn’t made public,” Sheley said. “It would be better if it was transparent throughout the process.”

When under investigation for misconduct, CPD officers’ names, photos or any other identifying information is not made public unless the officer is arrested. In most cases, especially when under investigation, officers are allowed to return to their jobs without being publicly identified, Sheley explained. 

For example, videos surfaced on social media of 18-year-old Miracle Boyd of GoodKids MadCity (GKMC) being hit in the mouth and getting her tooth knocked out by a CPD officer while protesting on July 17 during the Black Indigenous Solidarity Rally where protestors aimed to pull down the statue of Christopher Columbus — since then removed from Grant Park. 

The accused officer has never been publicly identified nor have their mugshots or block addresses been uploaded on CPD’s social media or department website. Activists spoke out about police brutality and accountability, including support from rapper Vic Mensa. They also called for the police officer to be removed from the force.

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Sheley said the lack of fairness and transparency adds on to the public’s distrust of the police. 

“There is no question that the police practice in Chicago over the years has really harmed public trust,” said Sheley. “Some of the big pieces where public trust has been harmed is around transparency and being transparent about investigations and the way investigations happen.”

Shortly after CPD received backlash from the community about its tweets, CPD went on record to say that the tweets were unsafe and won’t happen again. In an emailed statement to The TRiiBE on Aug. 18, CPD said:

“The Chicago Police Department publicly releases arrest data in compliance with ILCS 140/2.15 (a), which requires law enforcement to release identifying information of arrestees. However, CPD understands the concerns expressed by community members about the privacy and safety of individuals under arrest, and will no longer include residential addresses of offenders in Department social media posts.”

However, community leaders like McLoughlin believe that despite CPD’s promise, the future of many of the young people arrested that day may be impacted significantly. 

“I think that Chicago police regularly forget that they play a small role in the criminal legal system and that there is a judicial system and people are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty,” McLoughlin said. “An arrest does not mean that somebody committed a crime or actually did anything wrong.”

McLoughlin also said that wealth-based incarceration through unaffordable money bonds is the primary cause as to why so many Black people are in jail and one arrest that goes public can change those people’s lives forever. 

“We have more people locked up that have not been convicted of crime in the United States than most countries have incarcerated all together,” McLoughlin said. “Pretrial incarceration, regardless of the outcome of somebody’s case can have a very permanent, long-lasting impact before they even have their full say in court. Yet, that information is online forever.”

is a freelance writer for The TRiiBE.