Team of Chicago Journalists Sue Police for Withholding Gun Violence ‘Heat List’ Algorithm


Chicago Sun-Times, Jamie Kalven and other reporters join new Freedom of Information
Act lawsuit against CPD

CHICAGO — Journalists across the city have filed a Freedom of Information Act
lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department for refusing to release public
records. In the new lawsuit
( ,
the Chicago Sun-Times, along with journalists Jamie Kalven, Brandon Smith, and
George Joseph, are suing CPD for withholding information about an algorithm that
determines what citizens end up on the Strategic Subject List, known as a “heat
list.” This list is a controversial computerized prediction of people allegedly
likely to be a victim or perpetrator of gun violence.

«We have learned too many times that a lack of transparency into the Chicago Police
Department leads to unconstitutional policing and violations of civil rights,” said
Matthew Topic of Loevy & Loevy, the civil rights law firm handling the case. “While
novel forms of policing like this aren’t necessarily bad, it’s crucial that the
public know how these lists are generated and whether they result in discrimination
and civil rights violations.»

One of the plaintiffs, Smith, was the journalist whose high-profile Freedom of
Information Act lawsuit led to the release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video in
November 2015. In addition, Kalven was the plaintiff in the watershed 2014 decision
of the Illinois appellate court, Kalven v. City of Chicago
( , which
established that closed investigations of police misconduct are public information.

This latest case comes on the heels of another lawsuit
filed by Kalven, who is suing CPD for withholding investigation records from the
Inspector General’s probe of the department’s handling of McDonald’s shooting death
in 2014. The Inspector General’s exhaustive investigation details the operation of
Chicago Police’s code of silence, what the lawsuit calls “the machinery of
institutional denial that has allowed police abuse of members of the public to go

The Invisible Institute ( is a nonprofit Chicago-based
journalism production company that works to enhance the capacity of civil society to
hold public institutions accountable. Toward that end, we develop strategies to
expand and operationalize transparency. We seek to make visible perspectives too
often excluded from public discourse. And we develop social interventions designed
to leverage necessary reforms. Among the tools we employ are human rights
documentation, investigative reporting, civil rights litigation, the curating of
public information, and the orchestration of difficult public conversations.

Loevy & Loevy ( is one of the nation’s largest civil rights law
firms, and over the past decade has won more multi-million dollar jury verdicts than
any other civil rights law firm in the entire country. In November 2015, Loevy &
Loevy successfully obtained the release of the dashcam video of McDonald’s shooting
death at the hands of Chicago police.