- That's what Frank Donner called Chicago in his 1990 book,
"Protectors of Privilege." As an ACLU attorney, he explained
how city police and US intelligence agencies targeted alleged internal
subversion, and while it operated "was the outstanding example of
it its kind in the United States (in terms of) size, number, and range
of targets or operational scope and diversity."
- He referred to "wide-open, no-holds-barred style
surveillance" (and vigilantism), unmatched anywhere in the country
- (institutionalized) guerrilla warfare against substantial sectors of
the city's population," using illegal, criminal methods, including
intimidation, physical confrontation, and flagrant abuse, at times involving
torture. That was then. What about now?
- From 2002 - 2004 alone, over 10,000 complaints were made
against police, many involving brutality, including beatings and torture.
Yet only 18 resulted in disciplinary action, according to University of
Chicago Law Professor Craig Futterman who uncovered the data.
- He helped prepare a 2007 University of Chicago report
titled, "The Chicago Police Department's Broken System," revealing
damning evidence of systemic abuse, including brutality, illegal searches,
false arrests, racial targeting, sexual assaults, shoddy investigations,
a culture of silence, and apartheid justice mostly affecting the city's
Blacks, Latinos, poor and disadvantaged.
- The police were called a "regime of not knowing,"
letting cops get away with torture, even murder - because of "a deep
commitment to the machinery of denial... encouraging a culture of silence
in the face of abuse perpetrated by officers," Mayor Richard M. Daley
and City Council aldermen as culpable as top police officials.
- Among other findings, the study found:
- -- compared to other large municipal police authorities,
excessive force complaints are 94% less likely to be sustained by the Chicago
Police Department (CPD);
- -- in over 85% of cases, accused officers aren't even
interviewed, except to fill out a brief form; and
- -- a small percent of officers is responsible for most
complaints - 2,451 from 4 - 10; another 662 (repeat offenders), over 10.
- No wonder detective Jon Burge got away with torturing
over 200 detainees from 1972 - 1991, to force confessions under extreme
- In May 1972, he was assigned to Area 2 on Chicago's South
Side, a predominantly black community. In August, torture allegations surfaced.
In May 1973, he tortured Anthony Jones by electric shock and suffocation
with a plastic bag. In 1977, he was promoted to sergeant. From 1973 - 1981,
he and his subordinates were accused brutal beatings and other forms of
torture and abuse.
- In 1981, he was promoted to lieutenant in charge of Area
2's Violent Crimes Unit. From 1981 - 1993, dozens of victims accused him
of torture. Suits were filed, but through 1990, the administration and
City Council took no action. Neither did Mayor Richard M. Daley after his
- Finally, after 21 years of torturing detainees, the Chicago
Police Board fired him. In March 1993, the Fraternal Order of Police planned
to honor him with a float in the annual St. Patrick's Day parade. Community
outrage stopped it. In 1993 and 1994, torture allegations against other
officers were investigated. Through 1998, no action followed.
- In November 1999, torture expert Dr. Robert Kirschner
testified that Chicago police abuses followed a pattern found in nations
where the military and other security forces practice it. In 2004, several
former black detectives, under Burge, admitted in sworn statements that
they saw or heard evidence of torture, saw implements used (including Burge's
"shock box"), and that abusive practices were an "open secret"
at Area 2.
- Until then, Burge was never charged with a crime. He
retired and moved to Florida. However, in 2002, the Cook County Bar Association,
Justice Coalition of Chicago and others petitioned for allegations against
him to be reviewed. A special prosecutor was appointed. Burge (and eight
others) claimed Fifth Amendment protections. On September 1, 2004, he was
subpoenaed before a grand jury, again pleading the Fifth on nearly every
- On June 20, 2006, the Illinois Supreme Court ordered
findings of a special torture report released. They showed that in three
or more cases, torture, involving Burge, was proved beyond a reasonable
doubt, to no avail as the statute of limitations had expired.
- Finally, on October 21, 2008, he was indicted on two
counts of obstructing justice and one count of perjury, relating to alleged
torture and abuse charges against him and other officers.
- On June 28, 2010, the Chicago Tribune reported his conviction
on all counts after getting off scot free for decades. When sentenced,
he'll face up to 45 years in prison, his attorneys, however, saying they'll
seek probation because of his age (62) and apparent prostate cancer. If
successful, justice again will be denied, letting off or going easy on
a notoriously bad cop under a criminally unjust system, the same today
as when he served - why so few cases reach the Chicago Police Board for
consideration and resolution. More on its process below.
- Chicago Justice Project (CJP) Ten Year Analysis of Chicago
Police Board Cases and Decisions
- CJP is "an independent, non-profit research organization
(involved in) access(ing) and analyz(ing) data from criminal justice agencies
to promote evidence based reforms that serve the justice needs of local
- In October 2009, it published its ten year analysis (from
January 1999 - December 2008) of Chicago Police Board (CPB) cases and decisions,
examining charges filed and rulings.
- CPB is a civilian oversight agency responsible for recommending,
and in some cases, determining disciplinary measures for Chicago Police
Department (CPD) officers and civilian employees. Its staff includes an
executive director, two professionals, and a supervising clerk.
- In recent years, it's come under media scrutiny for failing
to uphold the Chicago Police Superintendent's recommendations to fire or
suspend offending officers, despite its statutory obligation to hold hearings,
weigh the evidence, and render judgments either to uphold or absolve.
- In examining 310 cases, the following factors were considered:
- -- how often CPB upheld recommendations to suspend or
terminate officers and civilians;
- -- average suspension lengths;
- -- the process from when charges were filed to final
- -- how often charged individuals were returned to duty
- -- the frequency of unanimous decisions;
- -- the influence of individual hearing officers; and
- -- how often board members missed votes.
- CJP found a "startling difference in outcomes experienced
between civilian employees and sworn officers," CPB upholding recommended
discipline of a civilian employee 73% of the time, in contrast to 37% for
sworn officers. In addition, only 4% of investigated civilians returned
to work without discipline compared to 20% of police officers.
- The police superintendent reviews and signs off on investigations,
originating within either the Internal Affairs Division or the Independent
Police Review Authority. The CPB then either upholds, reverses or reduces
disciplinary recommendations following two layers of oversight examination.
- CJP supports civilian investigative authority of police,
but its analysis showed an unresponsive Board two-thirds of the time, failing
to uphold recommended disciplinary measures against offending officers
- in effect, whitewashing police brutality, the small percent of it ever
coming up for review in the first place.
- Further, CPB's decisions aren't made in writing. As a
result, only through Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filings
can it be learned if dissenting votes were to increase, reduce or absolve
disciplinary recommendations and how often.
- CJP's analysis determined that decisions were unanimous
in 89% of civilian employee cases, but only 58% for officers. It concluded
that serious flaws need correcting in CPB practices, starting with full
disclosure of its proceedings and rulings as part of the public record,
available on request to anyone without need for FOIA requests. Victims
ask why so few cases are reviewed, justice denied them as a result.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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