I have written prior blogs detailing the allegations of torture by detainees and others which occurred in Chicago by police for over 20 years. In addition, it has been almost “mission impossible” to hold those Chicago police accountable for these torture crimes against humanity for over 30 years.
The date collection regarding torture incidents by Chicago police reported by victims began as early in 1973 and lasted until about 1992. This standard operating procedure of resorting to the use of torture was an open secret, tolerated by many in power as it was practiced under the auspices of a career Chicago Police Officer, Jon Burge who rose to the level of commander from the years of 1972-1993.
The establishment press, most political leaders, the police hierarchy, and judicial officials were all complicit in the cover up. It wasn’t until 2011 that Jon Burge faced any jail time. As of February 2015, he has already been released from a Tampa halfway house on his own recognizance with his intact annual pension of $54,000.
This underscores the importance of not being seduced by the Chicago police with the establishment’s press assistance in the discounting of the allegations by recent Homan Square detainees. These victims have been describing eerily similar details about how their constitutional rights were trampled on by police. The Homan Square police facility has been referred to as another “black site.”
The prior blog spans the years from 1972-1989 regarding the cover up by those in power turning a blind eye to reported claims of torture by police. The reference for this background material is by G. Flint Taylor of Peoples Law Offices, titled, “A Long and Winding Road: The Struggle for Justice in the Chicago Police Torture Cases.” The following are some excerpts covering up the years from 1989-1993:
The Anonymous Letters From “Deep Badge.”
“During the trial, Wilson’s lawyers received several anonymous letters from a police source who was close to Burge. The source, dubbed “Deep Badge” by the lawyers, asserted that the torture was deeply racist and systemic. Deep Badge named numerous of Burge’s “asskickers,” implicated States Attorney Daley and Mayor Jane Byrne in the scandal, and specifically identified another torture victim, Melvin Jones, who was tortured by Burge with electric shock only days before Wilson. The lawyers located Jones in the Cook County Jail, confirmed his story, and obtained a transcript of his testimony at his 1982 motion-to-suppress hearing where he first detailed his torture. While the trial judge, Brian Barnett Duff, would not permit Jones to testify at the trial, this breakthrough would open the door to the discovery and documentation, over the next two decades, of more than 110 victims of torture by Burge and his men.”
“The eight-week Wilson civil rights trial ended with a hung jury, but Wilson’s lawyers had begun to uncover and document more cases of Area 2 torture. The lawyers presented them to Judge Duff in an unsuccessful attempt to have this evidence presented at the retrial that was scheduled to start in the summer of 1989. At the retrial, Judge Duff permitted Burge’s City-financed lawyers to present weeks of what the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals would later find to be highly prejudicial and irrelevant evidence about the police murders for which Wilson stood convicted. Remarkably, the all-white jury nonetheless returned a split verdict, absolving Burge from violating Wilson’s constitutional rights, but finding that the police department had a policy of abusing persons accused of killing police officers.” “The hotly contested trials and the revelations that the torture was systemic in nature engendered some sporadic media attention. Wilson’s lawyers insisted on calling the abuse “torture” rather than brutality, and slowly the media followed suit. John Conroy, an investigative reporter for the Chicago Reader, covered both trials, and in early 1990, set forth in detail the systemic nature of the torture in an article aptly entitled “House of Screams.”
Community Activism Intensifies
“Community groups and police watchdog organizations, led by Citizens Alert, also took notice, and began to publicize the issue and organize around it. On the heels of the trials, the head of the police department’s Office of Professional Standards (OPS), David Fogel, after unsuccessfully requesting a federal investigation, was compelled to open an internal police investigation into the allegations. On Christmas Eve 1990, the Chicago City Council held a widely publicized hearing on the torture cases at which Wilson’s lawyers, torture expert Robert Kirschner, and County Commissioner Danny Davis presented evidence, and shortly thereafter,requested that the Illinois Attorney General’s Office conduct an independent investigation. For the next several years, activists led by the Task Force to Confront Police Violence and Citizens Alert staged sit-ins at City Council, led a march to -Mayor Richard M. Daley’s house, made repeated appearances at the Chicago Police Board, and demanded meetings with Police Superintendent Martin to discuss the OPS investigation. “
The OPS Reports
“In the fall of 1991 the OPS, in a detailed report authored by investigator Francine Sanders, recommended that Burge, Yucaitis and a third detective, Patrick O’Hara, be fired for their torture of Andrew Wilson. The Superintendent concurred, and they were suspended from the force. Only weeks before the suspensions, a 13-year-old boy, Marcus Wiggins, was tortured with electric shock by detectives under Burge and Byrne’s command.”
“Unknown to the general public, there had also been a parallel OPS investigation into the systemic nature of Area 2 torture, conducted by OPS investigator Michael Goldston; its damning findings had been approved by Gayle Shines, the OPS Chief Administrator who had succeeded Fogel as head of OPS. The Goldston Report found that suspects held in custody at Area 2 had been subjected to “systematic” and “methodical” “abuse,” that the abuse included “planned torture,” and that Area 2 command personnel were “aware of the systematic abuse” and encouraged it by “actively participating” or failing to take action to stop it.”
“CPD Superintendent Martin, who had previously been Burge’s commander at Area 2, suppressed the report and secretly sought to have the findings discredited by cronies at the Police Foundation. By court order, lawyers from the People’s Law Office obtained the report and, in February 1992, released it at a press conference that received widespread local, national, and international coverage. In response, Martin and Mayor Daley publicly condemned the findings, calling them “only allegations . . . rumors, stories, things like that.”
The Firing of Jon Burge
“The firing of Jon Burge, Yucaitis and O’Hara were put on trial before the Chicago Police Recommendation Board for the torture of Andrew Wilson only weeks after the Goldston Report was made public. A large Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) fundraiser for the accused officers’ defense drew extensive media coverage, as did a demonstration staged, at risk of life and limb, by the Task Force to Confront Police Violence, in front of the hall where the fundraiser took place.”
“In pleadings filed by the City in the police board case, its lawyers admitted for the first time that there was “an astounding pattern or plan on the part of [Burge and Yucaitis] to torture certain suspects . . . into confessing to crimes.” Wilson, Melvin Jones, and a third Burge torture victim, Shadeed Mumin, all testified for the City during the six-week hearing. The City retained lawyers who were prosecuting Burge withheld public comment during the hearing, so Wilson’s lawyers and community activists provided the media with the perspective of those who sought justice for Wilson and all police torture survivors, emphasizing that the evidence established torture rather than simply brutality. The struggle to expose police torture was further advanced by the subsequent release of a documentary film that later aired on PBS, which highlighted the work of activists and lawyers in bringing the torture scandal to light.”
“A year later, in February 1993, the Chicago Police Board released its written decision – finding Burge and Yucaitis guilty of abusing Wilson, and ordering that Burge be fired and Yucaitis suspended for 15 months. While the lengthy decision did not brand the officers’ conduct as torture nor specifically find that Wilson was electric-shocked, burned or bagged, it was rightfully claimed as a significant victory by those who had fought for justice in the torture cases.”
“The FOP reacted quite differently by condemning the decision as political and attempting to enter a float honoring Burge and Yucaitis in the City’s 1993 St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The public outrage, particularly in the African American community, occasioned by this attempt led to front-page headlines, and the FOP was forced to withdraw the float.”