Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Chicago Got Their Comeuppance — the First Time a U.S. City Found Culpable Of Police Torture

Jonathan Jackson (center left) stands with Atty. G. Flynt Taylor (center right) during a press conference on torture and wrongful convictions outside the Chicago federal courthouse where former Chicago Police Department Lt. Cmdr. Jon Burge was indicted in 2008. Burge was later convicted of torturing suspects in his custody.
Chicago’s City Council approved “an unprecedented reparations package [last] Wednesday that will pay $5.5 million and provide other benefits to torture victims of notorious former police commander Jon Burge.”

In March, I wrote of Chicago’s Homan Square warehouse, a Chicago Police Special Operations detention and interrogation center. Likened to a CIA black site, Chicago Police there tortured and abused prisoners, held them for hours without any official record of detention, and deprived detainees of legal representation.

Chicago’s Police Department has a history of human rights violations. It’s not the first time Chicago have had to pay for their misconduct.

Here’s just one example: Rachelle Jackson pulled a police officer from a burning patrol car on November 19, 2002. When police arrived, she was arrested and charged with stealing a police service weapon. “She was held for two days with little food and water and was threatened with violence until she agreed to sign a statement police had prepared for her. She was then charged and spent more than 10 months in the Cook County Jail awaiting trial.”

On June 12, 2008, a federal jury found Chicago and several police officers culpable of “false arrest, malicious prosecution, coercive questioning, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.” They awarded Jackson $7.7 million.

But Chicago’s police force problem began as far back as the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and the days of Chicago’s infamous mayor Richard Daley.

The convention was the site of Vietnam War protests. When Chicago police broke up protesters, Time Magazine described the police response as “sanctioned mayhem.” The Time reported that police attacked protesters “With billy clubs, tear-gas and Mace, the blue-shirted, blue-helmeted cops violated the civil rights of countless innocent citizens and contravened every accepted code of professional police discipline.

“They savagely attacked hippies, yippies, New Leftists, revolutionaries, dissident Democrats, newsmen, photographers, passers-by, clergymen and at least one handicapped. Winston Churchill's journalist grandson got roughed up. Even Dan Rather [former CBS News anchor] who was on the floor doing a report during the convention got roughed up by the Chicago Police Department. Playboy's Hugh Hefner took a whack on the backside. The police even victimized a member of the British Parliament, Mrs. Anne Kerr, a vacationing Laborite who was maced outside the Conrad Hilton and hustled off to the lockup.”

Jon Burge, convicted and sentenced on January 21, 2011 to four-and-one-half years in federal prison for torturing more than 200 prisoners, walked out of federal prison last year after serving just three and a half years of his sentence. Burge’s egregious misconduct overall cost Chicago over $120 million. Burge continues to receive a $4,000-a-month police pension.

In consideration of Chicago’s history, it really makes one wonder whether Chicago and its police force will ever be willing to make the necessary changes it so desperately needs.

Copyright © 2015 Horatio Green