Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

Most of our stories are not available for download but can be easily ordered by contacting the Resource Center directly at 573-882-3364 or rescntr@ire.org where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

Search results for "Cook County" ...

  • The Death of a State Trooper

    Early on a Saturday morning in late March of 2019, a man drove the wrong way down a suburban Chicago expressway and crashed into another driver, killing them both. It’s the kind of news story that – unfortunately -- we all report too often. It’s also the kind of story that NBC5 Investigates regularly checks out, to see what might be behind the breaking news. In this case, we quickly discovered a man – Dan Davies -- who should never have been on the road, because of a system that simply (and repeatedly) didn’t work, eventually resulting in that early- morning crash. The man Davies killed: An Illinois State Trooper named Gerald Ellis, who was heading home to his family after his late-night shift. One witness at the scene said Trooper Ellis saved the lives of others, by steering into Davies’ oncoming car. Nearly every day over the two weeks following that fatal crash, NBC5 Investigates uncovered new court records and police reports, blood-alcohol analyses and dash cam video, social-media posts and States Attorney documents, all adding to a damning pile of evidence showing that Davies should have been behind bars the night of the crash, save for a series of mistakes by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. Yet, every day, when we tried to get answers from that State’s Attorney, Kim Foxx, there was only radio silence. The lack of response was so galling – especially from a taxpayer-funded office accountable to the public -- that we documented, online and in real time, the actual reporting process of our daily phone calls and emails, which simply sought the most basic answers on what her office did and didn’t do, in a case that clearly and ultimately resulted in the unnecessary death of an Illinois State trooper. Ultimately, Foxx was forced to respond and – finally – take responsibility for the mistakes that allowed Dan Davies to be on the road that night.
  • Taking Cover, by WBEZ and the Better Government Association

    A Better Government Association/WBEZ investigation into shootings by police in the Cook County suburbs. The investigation found a startling lack of accountability, or even effort to improve following questionable officer-involved shootings. It also found many of these small suburban departments struggled to pay for basic training and discipline for officers, with no support from the state.
  • Politics in Cook County Schools

    In the April, 2015 Cook County elections, a number of local mayors, two state representatives and a township highway commissioner got actively involved in local school board elections. They paid for campaign mailers, palm cards and even robo-calls. When the Illinois State Board of Elections released campaign donation information for the second quarter of 2015, a web of cash and in-kind donations to local school board campaign committees was revealed. Three recurring donors showed up in the campaign contribution records for the politicians and school board committees. They are Del Galdo Law Group, Odelson & Sterk attorneys, and Franklin Park company Restore Construction.
  • NBC5 INVESTIGATES: OFF THEIR GUARD

    After a pregnant college student was sexually assaulted on Chicago’s south side, NBC5 Investigates began looking into the background of the suspect, and discovered he was supposed to be on juvenile electronic monitoring for a past arrest. Over the next several days, Phil Rogers continued to uncover serious flaws in Cook County’s system for monitoring juvenile offenders. By the end of the week – and a direct result of Rogers’ week-long reporting – the county completely reformed its system to – finally -- provide true 24-hour monitoring for juvenile offenders.
  • Harsh Treatment

    In Illinois, hundreds of juvenile state wards are assaulted and raped by their peers each year at taxpayer-funded residential treatment centers as authorities fail to act on reports of harm and continue sending waves of youths to the most violent facilities, the Tribune's "Harsh Treatment" investigation found. Prostitution becomes a fact of life at facilities where experienced residents introduce others to pimps, escort websites and street corners. And thousands of kids flee to the streets, where some sold drugs and sex to survive and others broke into homes and mugged passers-by. Dozens have never been found. The reporters gathered thousands of pages of highly protected juvenile case files, successfully petitioned the Cook County juvenile court for access to delinquency files and through relentless FOIA appeals pried free police and state monitoring reports on violent incidents inside the facilities.
  • Doctors Do Little?

    Months-long Better Government Association (BGA) investigation finds serious failings at the Cook County government health system, with doctors, nurses and other health-care workers failing to show up as scheduled, swipe in as required or work a full day – costing taxpayers big and potentially putting public safety at risk.
  • Crime and Punishment

    The Chicago Reporter developed a first-of-its-kind series of data-driven stories shedding light on the country's third largest criminal courts system. Each of these stories were built on/based on the same database: More than 11 years’ worth of court records for Cook County. The data set was so rich that we spun it into a series of stories over the year. Collectively, they put consistent picture emerged that put pressure on the judges, police, lawmakers and elected officials who control the criminal justice system.
  • Crime and Punishment

    The Chicago Reporter developed a first-of-its-kind series of data-driven stories shedding light on the country's third largest criminal courts system. Each of these stories were built on/based on the same database: More than 11 years’ worth of court records for Cook County. The data set was so rich that we spun it into a series of stories over the year. Collectively, they put consistent picture emerged that put pressure on the judges, police, lawmakers and elected officials who control the criminal justice system.
  • Grandma can’t accept your call: Inmates disconnected by phone costs

    This series of stories started with a simple question. Why does it cost so much for inmates to make calls from the Cook County Jail? In the course of my reporting on criminal and legal affairs for WBEZ, the public radio station in Chicago, I had heard numerous people complain about the high cost of phone calls. Some digging confirmed that the price could be as high as $15.00 for 15 minute calls. Three or four calls a week at that price gets expensive even for financially stable middle class folks, but the people paying these fees were mostly the poorest residents in Chicago. That’s because most of the people in the Cook County Jail are there because they and their families couldn’t afford to post bond of a couple thousand, or sometimes even just hundreds of dollars to secure their freedom while awaiting trial. They are the people who are least able to afford such expensive phone calls. A few FOIA requests revealed the scheme (and scheme is the right word… I just looked it up: a crafty or secret plan of action). Cook County gave an exclusive phone contract to a company called Securus Technologies. Securus charged inflated phone rates and their exclusive deal in the jail meant inmates wanting to talk to their families or arrange their defense had no choice but to pay the rates. Securus then paid back to the county 57½ percent of the revenue from the calls. It netted the county about $4 million a year. Securus wouldn’t tell us their take but I imagine they did alright too. All of the money was coming out of the pockets of the poorest residents in Cook County, people who couldn’t even afford to post bond for their freedom. (As an aside, this isn’t just an issue in Cook County. According to its website Securus provides the phone systems for 850,000 inmates in 2,200 jails and prisons across the country.) Our reporting shed public light on a hugely profitable contract that no one was paying attention to. We documented the lives of the impoverished people getting hammered by the policy and then turned the hammer on the local elected officials to ask them to explain how this was a good policy. The public officials responded in a way that once again proved the genius of democracy. Our efforts and the results are detailed in subsequent answers below.
  • Grandma can’t accept your call: Inmates disconnected by phone costs

    This series of stories started with a simple question. Why does it cost so much for inmates to make calls from the Cook County Jail? In the course of my reporting on criminal and legal affairs for WBEZ, the public radio station in Chicago, I had heard numerous people complain about the high cost of phone calls. Some digging confirmed that the price could be as high as $15.00 for 15 minute calls. Three or four calls a week at that price gets expensive even for financially stable middle class folks, but the people paying these fees were mostly the poorest residents in Chicago. That’s because most of the people in the Cook County Jail are there because they and their families couldn’t afford to post bond of a couple thousand, or sometimes even just hundreds of dollars to secure their freedom while awaiting trial. They are the people who are least able to afford such expensive phone calls. A few FOIA requests revealed the scheme (and scheme is the right word… I just looked it up: a crafty or secret plan of action). Cook County gave an exclusive phone contract to a company called Securus Technologies. Securus charged inflated phone rates and their exclusive deal in the jail meant inmates wanting to talk to their families or arrange their defense had no choice but to pay the rates. Securus then paid back to the county 57½ percent of the revenue from the calls. It netted the county about $4 million a year. Securus wouldn’t tell us their take but I imagine they did alright too. All of the money was coming out of the pockets of the poorest residents in Cook County, people who couldn’t even afford to post bond for their freedom. (As an aside, this isn’t just an issue in Cook County. According to its website Securus provides the phone systems for 850,000 inmates in 2,200 jails and prisons across the country.) Our reporting shed public light on a hugely profitable contract that no one was paying attention to. We documented the lives of the impoverished people getting hammered by the policy and then turned the hammer on the local elected officials to ask them to explain how this was a good policy. The public officials responded in a way that once again proved the genius of democracy. Our efforts and the results are detailed in subsequent answers below.