The Oak Park Village Board approved a request from the Oak Park Police Department to hire a consulting firm to conduct a review of the department’s current record management system. The work will allow the department to respond faster to the increasing number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, according to Chief LaDon Reynolds.
“We don’t have the technology on board to facilitate answering those FOIA requests, so we can provide that information timely,” said Reynolds, during the board’s June 28 meeting.
The $35,240 contract with CISYNC LLC, a firm specializing in public safety visualizations and data mining, lasts one year with the option to renew for two additional one-year periods.
CISYNC is tasked with creating “an interactive library of records management system reports customizable to the needs” of the police department, according to the professional services agreement. The firm will also analyze current system configurations and automate certain processes, as well as create interactive citizen-facing reports and dashboards.
“This is just furthering my efforts in the police department to be more transparent, more agile in being able to respond to the myriad of requests we’ve received in the past several years,” said Reynolds, who added that the FOIA requests are also coming from the state’s attorney and defense attorneys, as well as citizens.
The agenda item was on the June 24 meeting agenda but tabled until the June 28 meeting as Trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla, who pulled it from the consent agenda for discussion, was unable to attend the previous meeting, held on a Thursday due to prior village internet complications.
Trustee Susan Buchanan read a statement from Walker-Peddakotla, June 24, wherein the absent trustee referenced criminal law professors who have spoken out against using crime statistics to justify growth in policing.
“Instead of reporting crime stats, we need to start talking about racial profiling and disproportionate stops,” Buchanan read on behalf of Walker-Peddakotla.
During the June 28 meeting, Walker-Peddakotla explained her reasoning for pulling the item from the consent agenda was a desire to have the proposal sent to the Citizen Police Oversight Committee (CPOC) for examination.
“I would like CPOC to just review the proposal and see if, in their opinion, this is something that we should engage with, and then bring that recommendation back to the village board,” Walker-Peddakotla said. “I do want CPOC’s voice in this.”
CPOC is a citizen-based advisory commission that evaluates complaints made against police regarding conduct, as well as interpersonal and community relations issues. Trustee Jim Taglia reminded the board that the ordinance under which the committee operates does not include reviewing contracts related to law enforcement.
“I understand Arti’s point, but CPOC’s enabling ordinance does not give it the authority to review this,” Taglia said.
Walker-Peddakotla was undeterred by the limitations of the ordinance. Rather, she parlayed them into an opportunity to call for ordinance revision, stating she believed it should be within the committee’s authority to review the proposal.
“It’s a really clear example to me of CPOC, as it is, is not an oversight body that we need it to be,” she said.
Nevertheless, Walker-Peddakotla stated she was “happy” to let the proposal go to a vote.
“I will be voting no, just given the fact that we don’t have commission input on this issue,” she said.
Other board members were puzzled as to why Walker-Peddakotla, who has consistently called for greater transparency from the police department during her time as trustee, would want to vote against an initiative that would make records more accessible.
Ravi Parakkat understood Walker-Peddakotla’s concerns about crime statistics but viewed the proposal as a move forward in creating more visibility for outsiders into the police department.
“I don’t see the harm in this,” Parakkat said. “It seems like a step in the right direction for transparency.”
Village President Vicki Scaman was also confused, which she told Walker-Peddakotla.
“This is about software, not about our policing policies in anyway,” the village president said.
The board approved the services agreement in a 6-1 vote.