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Tuesday, May 7, 2013 08:49 am

City lacked approval to destroy records

Police files shredded anyway

Springfield police destroyed internal affairs files older than four years just eight months after establishing a five-year retention period under a state law that requires records to be preserved according to retention schedules approved by a local records commission.

The city last September applied for and was granted a five-year window to retain the records, said David Joens, director of state archives with the Illinois Secretary of State's office who sits on the commission charged with determining how long records should be kept. Absent a retention schedule approved by the commission, such records should be kept indefinitely, he said.

"If it's a record, which it (an internal affairs file) is, it has to be on a retention schedule," Joens said. "If it's not on the schedule, it's supposed to be kept indefinitely."

It isn't clear how many, if any, files might have been destroyed when the schedule was established last fall, but dozens, including some that were the subject of pending requests made under the state Freedom of Information Act, were destroyed last month. The head of the police union has put the number at 73; Mayor Mike Houston in a Monday letter to state attorney general Lisa Madigan wrote that 30 files had been "expunged."

Houston asked Madigan to investigate after city council members said that they want the attorney general to conduct a criminal probe. Such an investigation would not be unprecedented in Sangamon County, where state police in 2010 served a search warrant on former coroner Susan Boone, saying that she may have broken the law by destroying records without approval from the local records commission.

Joens said that the commission has not approved a schedule for retaining internal affairs files for Springfield police since the five year period was approved last fall.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com
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