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 duress.
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 1989 election.
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 question asked.
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 communities."
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 resolutions;
-- how often charged individuals were returned to duty without discipline;
-- 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 email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.