The Chicago police department has a history of acting in a less than exemplary way when interacting with its citizens. The amount of monies they pay out each year for lawsuits alleging the use of excessive force and other infringements is astronomical.

Most importantly the Chicago police and the establishment press have a history of ignoring unbelievable wrongs committed for years without timely intervention. Once one reads about Chicago’s history of police abuse, why would the Chicago residents not demand an independent, competent and thorough investigation Of Homan Square  as a minimum expectation?

It is time for a history refresher commentary.

Most Americans have the naïve belief that our police would never torture our own citizenry in a manner similar to the forms of torture described in the recent CIA disclosures or that the concept of the Chicago PD running a “Black Site” is too farfetched.

For those who wonder why our Black brothers are not buying the Chicago Police Departments’ denials that the Guardian, February 2015 allegations of police trampling on the constitutional rights of detainees , read the following history lesson as to why their fear is reality based. On 10/2/14, the Guardian posted a report by Mark Guarino, “Disgraced Chicago police commander accused of torture freed from prison,” and here are some excerpts:

Jon Burge
Jon Burge finally ended up in court in 2010, but most cases dated back so far that the statute of limitations had run out. Photograph: Verna Sadock/AP

“Federal prosecutors alleged that Burge headed a rogue band of police personnel named the “Midnight Crew” between 1972 and 1991 that systematically tortured and abused black men and women to coerce false confessions. Methods they used included suffocation, beatings, burnings, electric shock to the genitals and other methods that caused severe physical and mental injury.”

“Burge finally ended up in court in 2010, but because the majority of cases dated back so far, the statute of limitations had run out, which prevented prosecutors from pursuing more serious charges. After a month-long trial, he was convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury after falsely denying in a federal civil rights lawsuit that he and others committed torture.”

“In January 2011 he was sentenced to serve four and a half years; his early release sends him to a halfway house in Tampa, Florida. This summer the Illinois supreme court ruled that Burge can keep his annual $54,000 pension.”

He has been released on February, 2015. The story is still in play as elected officials are still pursuing reparation funds for those previously harmed but who have yet to be compensated.

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The information  detailed below is from the 2/4/2005 Chicago Reader article, “Tools of Torture” by John Conroy. It tells the story as to how torture of civilians by Chicago police continued unchecked for almost 20 years. The Chicago police commander, Jon Burge started his career with the Chicago police department in 1972 and he was fired in 1993.

“In a statement given to People’s Law Office attorney Flint Taylor last spring (2004), Holmes said he was taken to an Area Two interrogation room, where detectives put a plastic bag over his head. Holmes said that after he bit through the bag in order to breathe, Burge put a second bag over the first. Holmes told Taylor that he remembered hearing a crank turning and Burge saying, “You going to talk, nigger, you going to talk.”

“It feel like a thousand needles going through my body,” Holmes said. “And then after that, it just feel like, you know–it feel like something just burning me from inside, and um, I shook, I gritted, I hollered, then I passed out. . . . They put the bag back on me, took me through the same thing again. They did that I don’t know how many times. . . . I said to myself, ‘Man, he trying to kill me.’ And I thought I was dead because all I could see was blackness, and I said, ‘Man, this is it. I’m gone.’ When I looked up, they brought me back again. Burge was the one that was . . . bringing me back. Every time I come to, he be the one standing over me.”


“But the point is, when you see police doing you like this here and there’s nobody there to help you, you like, ‘Man, is this real?’ You know it can’t be real. . . . It’s just like, you know, just diving in some water that’s ice-cold and it hits you at one time and it take your breath away and you get pain. It freezes you up. It’s just like somebody just cut away everything that’s inside you and there’s nothing to hold you back. . . . When they got through with me, I didn’t care what it was–if they said I killed Bob or the president or anybody, I would say, ‘Yeah, how do you want me to say this? This the way I did it? Yeah, this the way I did it.’ . . .”

“When I tried to tell people that they did me like this, ain’t nobody want to listen to me. When I go to the parole board, I tell them the same thing. They look at me like, you know, ‘You got jailhouse slick.'”

“According to a commendation the three detectives received, Holmes gave a statement admitting “his guilt in the murder and numerous other unsolved felonies. In addition, he implicated many members of the Royal Family who were also involved in the crimes. . . . They were charged with numerous felonies, including five murders and an armed robbery in which an off-duty police officer was shot.”

“Holmes’s confession, given to an assistant state’s attorney in Burge’s presence, ran more than 40 pages. It offered incriminating statements about tavern robberies and crimes having nothing to do with the Murphy murder. The department commendation praised Burge, Hoke, and Wagner for their “skillful questioning.”

While Mayor Rahm Emanuel has apologized for what happened under Jon Burge, he has yet to endorse reparations
While Mayor Rahm Emanuel has apologized for what happened under Jon Burge, he has yet to endorse reparations

“Accounts of electroshock torture by police in large American cities are rare, and the cases that have surfaced in the last 25 years typically involve stun guns, Tasers, and stun belts. As those weapons belong to some law enforcement arsenals, it seems safe to conclude that spontaneity and impulsiveness might figure in their abuse. The devices used under Burge at Area Two, however, included a cattle prod, a field telephone, and an unidentified instrument that plugged into a wall outlet. Those who allegedly used the device at Area Two were accused of targeting the genital area, not the hand.”

“Extrapolating from the number of excessive-force complaints filed against Chicago police over the last ten years (roughly 2,800 a year), it seems likely that far more than a million complaints of excessive force have been filed against law enforcement and prison authorities in the U.S. in the last 40 years. Yet there have been only a handful of reports of authorities using cattle prods on human beings. Professor Rejali says that when complaints about cattle prod use have surfaced, typically the device was alleged to have been used to control, move, or punish prisoners or demonstrators. The Burge crew used the prod to extort confessions–and in that, Rejali says, they were pioneers.”

“As for police use of a hand-cranked generator on suspects–that’s virtually unheard-of except in Chicago. In the 18 years that followed Holmes’s interrogation, electrical torture gave way to other means to the same ends in Chicago. At Area Two, the three electrical devices seem to have been retired in 1984, around the time that a defense attorney told local reporters that Area Two detectives were using a black box to attack the genitals of suspects. The plastic bag, which in Holmes’s statement seemed an accessory to electric shock, later became a primary tool. The shock devices, however, were what did Burge in.”

“On the witness stand in 1989, Andrew Wilson seemed untroubled by having been beaten. It was the electric shock that seemed to feed his determination to proceed with his civil suit. The trial prompted someone to send anonymous letters in police department envelopes to the People’s Law Office, which was representing Wilson. The letters said that “almost all of the detectives and police officers involved” knew Wilson had committed the murders but did “not approve of the beatings and torture.” The letters went on to say “Burge hates black people” and that “he was always present, the machines and the plastic bags were his and he is the person who encouraged their use. You will find that the people with him were either weak and easily led or sadists.” The letter writer, who seemed highly knowledgeable about Burge, his gang of torturers, and those who did and didn’t belong to it, told the lawyers to talk to a Cook County jail inmate named Melvin Jones. Jones said he’d been given electric shock nine days before Wilson was arrested. The People’s Law Office located the transcript of Jones’s testimony about the interrogation. In it Jones said that Burge had mentioned two members of the Royal Family as having received the same electrical treatment. Those men led the lawyers to other victims, and eventually the notion that Wilson had made up his story became so untenable that even the city of Chicago’s attorneys acknowledged that electric shock had taken place. Burge was fired in 1993.”

shutterstock_157065551 CHICAGO POLICE CAR

“In September (2004) he was deposed at length in four civil suits and one parole board hearing, cases involving five men who said they’d been tortured by Area Two detectives. He gave his name, said he’d worked for the police department, agreed that he’d received a subpoena to testify, and responded to all further questions by invoking his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.”

“Over the course of the past eight months (2004- 2005), 30 other men who served with and under Burge have also taken the Fifth in depositions for the same cases. Thus far, all have been white. (James Sotos, who represents Burge and other Chicago police officers in one of those civil suits, claims the officers were willing to testify until he told them not to.)”

“However, four black officers who served at Area Two with Burge have recently given sworn statements providing new information about the Burge era. Former detective Melvin Duncan, who worked at Area Two from 1971 to 1978, gave the People’s Law Office’s Flint Taylor an affidavit saying he’d seen a dark wooden box in the Robbery Unit office when Burge served there. The box, he said, reminded him of a hand-cranked electrical device his father had made and had demonstrated by giving him and his brother “little shocks.” Duncan’s sworn statement also says, “While working at Area 2, I heard that certain Robbery detectives used an electrical box and cattle prods on people to get confessions from them.”

“Sammy Lacey Jr., now an attorney, worked as a detective in Area Two for about seven years, moving on to the Seventh District in 1988 when he was promoted to sergeant. In a sworn statement on October 12, Lacey said that even officers outside the unit noticed that detectives on Burge’s “A team,” most of whom worked the midnight shift, seemed to be getting a lot of confessions. There seemed to be a certain recognition, he said, “that something was not going right on the midnights.”

Homan Square
Homan Square

“Lacey noted that the black detectives who worked under Burge in the Violent Crimes unit were not assigned homicides. “Every time he would give us our detective division evaluations, we would always be rated low. I don’t care what we did, how many arrests we made, he would always throw this in our faces, that ‘you didn’t do any homicides.’ [We’d say,] ‘But you didn’t assign homicides to blacks.’ He said, ‘Well, that’s your problem,’ or something like that.”

“In a sworn statement on November 9, retired sergeant Doris Byrd, who had been Lacey’s partner at Area Two Violent Crimes in the early 80s, recalled that black detectives were given unsolvable and unnewsworthy cases, and that their names were ranked lowest on the efficiency reports until Deputy Chief James O’Reilly interceded on their behalf.”

“Byrd said that she could hear screaming coming from interview rooms while Burge’s A team was on duty. She said suspects told her they had been beaten with a telephone book and had had bags put over their heads. She said she had not seen the black box, but had heard that it was “running rampantly through the little unit up there.”

“When asked why she hadn’t said anything about this before, she replied, “We would have been frozen out of the police system. We would have been ostracized. We definitely wouldn’t have made rank. We probably would have been stuck in some do-nothing assignment.”

“Byrd cited the example of Area Two Violent Crimes detective Frank Laverty, legendary within the department for testifying against his colleagues in the case of George Jones. Jones, the teenage son of an African-American Chicago police officer, was put on trial for a 1981 murder though Laverty had uncovered exculpatory information and had submitted a memo to his commanding officer naming a more likely culprit. Laverty was on leave when he learned Jones was on trial, and he came forward, revealed his role in the case, testified in Jones’s defense, and thereafter was ostracized at Area Two. When Laverty requested a transfer, he was moved to police headquarters and assigned the job of watching police recruits give urine samples.”

“Byrd recalled a day when she was in a room with Burge and other detectives, and Laverty was present, looking for a file. “When he left the room,” Byrd said, “Burge drew his weapon and pointed it at the back of Laverty and said ‘Bang.”

The Mysterious Third Device

“Jon Burge and detectives under his command have been accused of using three electrical devices to torture suspects at Area Two–a cattle prod, a hand-cranked device, and a mysterious third appliance that plugged into a wall outlet. This third instrument was described by at least six men tortured between 1973 and 1984. They said it had been placed either on or up their rectum or against their exposed genitals. Some described it as a metal rod or prong attached by a cord to a black box.”

“At a 1985 hearing, Leonard Hinton described being taken to the basement at Area Two two years earlier. He said his hands were handcuffed above his head, his pants and shorts were pulled down, his ankles were handcuffed to a pole so his legs were spread, and then “the officer with the mustache and with the glasses with the black hair, he came in with a rod, and one was carrying a box, a black box. . . . There was a cord to the long rod. . . . The handle on it was black and they plugged the wire into the box. . . . Then they put something in my mouth . . . it was cloth . . . and they tied it so I couldn’t holler. . . . Then they took the rod, long part, and they placed it under my genitals. . . . [It was] a pain out of this world. I couldn’t describe it. . . . They said, ‘Are you ready to talk yet?’ The other said, ‘I don’t think he’s ready to talk yet.’ He hit me with it again. . . . Then . . . he touched it in the crack of my rectum. . . . Then he took that [cloth] out of my mouth. I said, ‘I am ready to talk. Tell me what you want me to say, sir. Please stop.'”


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