Over the last year and a half we have worked diligently using FOIA to investigate the use of surveillance equipment by the Chicago Police Department (CPD). Through multiple FOIA requests and lawsuits 0, we have demonstrated the CPD’s purchase and use of controversial “Stingray” cellphone surveillance devices 1 among other new surveillance technologies. Also through this work we have seen Chicago Police acting in “bad faith” 2 in fulfilling our FOIA requests.
Further investigation of the equipment owned by CPD demonstrated that money to purchase surveillance gear was originating from a ‘1505 / 1505 ML’ fund - an asset forfeiture fund. According to Chicago Police “the statutory authority for Department ‘1505’ seizures can be found in the Controlled Substances Act (720 ILCS 570), the Cannabis Control Act (720 ILCS 550), and the Methamphetamine Control and Community Protection Act (720 ILCS 646). The statutory authority for ‘1505 ML’ seizures can be found in the Criminal Code of 2012 (720 ILCS 5/Art. 29(b) ‘Money Laundering’”.
Our most recent investigations have revealed the purchase of a “Hailstorm upgrade” to a Stingray that Chicago Police operates - an upgrade that enables the surveillance of 4G phones. The use of this equipment has come under intense scrutiny because authorization to use these Stingrays may be coming from pen/trap orders which may conflict directly with IL SB-2808, which protects Illinois residents from location surveillance [3, 4]. The source of this most recent equipment is also from the 1505 fund [5, 6]. Further investigations have discovered these funds being used for the purchase of PENLink software and Cellbrite cell phone forensics by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) and CPD 7
We have a current project in the works with MuckRock, the transparency group, to find out more about what else the 1505 funds are being used to purchase. While asset forfeiture is a separate program from 1505 or 1505ML, we have seen in documents obtained by MuckRock 8 that this program is being abused to settle civil rights case that CPD officers has brought against CPD itself.
Furthermore we have seen Chicago Police spying on Black Lives Matter activists 9, possibly using these same surveillance devices funded via asset forfeiture 10. We have also seen Chicago Police spending 11 hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain secrecy around their surveillance devices by fighting citizens using FOIA.