Revolution #55, July 30, 2006
Chicago Police Torture Exposed—And Upheld
“I’m at a loss for words to look at this [explicative] report and to hear that torture existed but that there was no way we can deal with it”
tortured by Chicago police commander Jon Burge in 1983,
Chicago Sun-Times, July 20, 2006
“It’s just like putting salt into the wounds”
Mary L. Johnson,
whose son Michael was tortured by Burge in 1982,
speaking to Revolution
On July 19, the findings of a four-year investigation into police torture in Chicago were made public. Authored by Special Prosecutor Edward Egan (retired prosecutor and judge) and Robert Boyle (retired prosecutor), the nearly 300-page “Report of the Special State’s Attorney” had many things in it. Detailed descriptions of white police detectives beating, burning, and using electronic devices to shock Black men. Sharp criticism of former Chicago Police Superintendent Richard Brzeczek for failing to stop Burge early on. Findings that dozens and dozens of claims of torture by police were credible, and for the torture of Phillip Adkins, Alfonzo Pinex, and Andrew Wilson, that there was enough evidence to bring criminal charges against Burge and other police detectives. But look as carefully as you could, there was one glaring omission from the report—any hint of justice!
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“I think it’s a joke, I think it’s a whitewash.”
attorney for torture victim Aaron Patterson,
Chicago Sun Times, July 7, 2006
“The evidence is sufficient to establish that Lieutenant Jon Burge and at least one other police officer committed armed violence, intimidation, official misconduct, aggravated batter…[and] perjury and obstruction of justice.”
From the “Report of the Special State’s Attorney”
While acknowledging what has become the obvious—that Burge and many of his subordinates did beat and torture suspects during the time he was in charge first of Area 2 and later Area 3 detectives—a great deal of the report was devoted to defending Egan and Boyle’s determination that Burge and other detectives would NOT be charged in any of the torture. Nor would there be any charges brought against anyone who was a member of the prosecutor’s office at the time Burge was carrying out the torture—from then-Cook County State’s Attorney Richard Daley (currently Chicago’s mayor), then-First Assistant State’s Attorney Dick Devine (currently Cook County states attorney), or then-First Assistant State’s Attorney William Kunkle (now a judge). The report concluded that there was no basis to claim conspiracy and no evidence of obstruction of justice, and that because the events happened from ten to twenty years ago, the statute of limitations on the crimes has simply run out. First they spend years and years covering up this torture, whitewashing it, and lying about it. Then they say they can’t press charges because it happened too long ago!
On one hand, cold hard evidence of torture—and on the other, the harsh reality that the authorities intend to do NOTHING about it. No indictments. No fines. No consequences whatsoever. It’s a maddening contradiction, all the more intense when you read some of the descriptions of just what Burge and Co. were doing behind the walls of police stations. This excerpt from the report details what happened to Andrew Wilson, who on February 14, 1982 was hauled in to Area 2 violent crimes headquarters as a suspect (and eventually convicted) in the shooting of two police officers:
“…Burge took out a device, attached clamps to Wilson’s ear and began cranking. This caused Wilson to grind his teeth, scream and rub the clamps off. Burge and Hill stretched him across the radiator in the room so that the radiator was under his chin. Burge placed the clamps on his fingers and began cranking again, causing Wilson to scream.
“Burge then took out a device that looked like a curling iron. The device had a cord on it and wires sticking out of it. Burge began rubbing the device between Wilson’s legs, and Wilson could feel a tingling sensation. The shock from this device was stronger than from the crank device. When Wilson was being shocked, he was on his knees stretched across the radiator, and Hill was kicking him in the back. Burge took the devices out of the room and Wilson was left alone until he was taken to the line-up at Area 1.”
These experiences were repeated over and over for years by other Black men pulled in for questioning. Ronald Kitchen kneed and beaten with nightsticks repeatedly in the groin. Darrell Cannon shocked with a cattle prod to the lips and genitals. Aaron Patterson suffocated with a typewriter cover. Philip Adkins beaten so badly that he urinates and defecates on himself in the police car. And according to the report, this was repeated dozens and dozens of times.
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“This is carrying on the tradition of slavery… They can no longer carry this hate crime under the name of the KKK, the white city council, or the skin heads, they have to do it legally with the backing of the system, they have to do it as officers who wear badges who then are supported by prosecutors who have degrees who then are protected in the courts by judges who wear robes instead of sheets.”
Mary L. Johnson,
mother of Michael Johnson and long-time anti-torture activist,
speaking to Revolution
While many of Burge and Co.’s victims are still languishing in prison after convictions based on tortured evidence, the perpetrators have moved on and up in life. While Burge was finally fired from the police force in the face of growing opposition, he continues to lead a comfortable life in retirement on a police pension in Florida. Other torture-detectives received awards and commendations and had “distinguished” careers in the police department. Then-State’s Attorney Daley has been the Chicago mayor for the last 17 years.
There is something perverse where a report can be issued acknowledging torture and yet there will be no charges because too much time has passed. Too much time because all the players—from the police department to the Mayor’s office—did their utmost to sweep these crimes under the rug. It is the killing nature of bourgeois law. The principle of using the same “rule” for both rich and poor, for the oppressed and oppressor, translates into a statute of limitations which—while purporting to protect individuals from being endlessly subject to the threat of charges for a crime—gets used to permit the powerful to engage in torture and brutality with no fear of consequence.
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