We have Louis Brandeis to thank for the insight that “sunshine is the best disinfectant.” Government officials are more likely to correct problems the public is aware of. That’s why Freedom of Information Acts (FOIA), federal state, and local, are so important.
Here is a recent NYT article about statistics showing that Chicago policemen accused of misbehavior were seldom disciplined by their department, and when they were, the officer tended to be black or the complainant white. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/19/us/few-complaints-against-chicago-police-result-in-discipline-data-shows.html
This is a problem that Chicago should address. The article is well worth reading in its entirety, but I wish here to point out that the release of this data to the public was the result of a long legal fight waged by the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School and the Invisible Institute. Legislatures pass FOIA laws, but bureaucracies tend to ignore them. It often takes lawyers (and law students) to make the sun shine.
The persistence of lawyers like these in seeing that the government obeys the law is one of the things I am going to try to remember to be grateful for this Thursday.