Between 1871, the year of the Chicago Fire, and 1971, hundreds of people claimed they were tortured as part of a criminal investigation in Chicago. The recent history of torture in Chicago is well known, but the history of those older claims has been lost. That loss limits our understanding of more recent claims and our ability to adequately respond to them.
This blog is designed to help reclaim that lost history. It builds on my recent book, Robert Nixon and Police Torture in Chicago, 1871-1971 (NIU Press, 2016), expanding on that study to record the individual stories of the claims of torture and the people who made them.
It is also intended to connect the present to those lost moments in the past. So this site will also try to capture current accounts of torture and misconduct that bear witness to those older patterns.
”On Monday, the criminal convictions stemming from those arrests will be dismissed by Cook County prosecutors, along with charges against 15 other men who also fell victim to Watts and his corrupt crew of tactical officers, the Chicago Tribune has learned.”
This will bring the total number of convictions overturned because of misconduct by the former police sergeant to 42.
Newspapers are reporting former Chicago police commander, Jon Burge, long accused of torturing suspects, has died.
For background on the claims against Burge, see the archive of articles in the Chicago Reader and John Conroy’s book. For the lost history of police torture in Chicago before Jon Burge, see my book.
On Friday, July 27, the city of Chicago and the Illinois Attorney General issued a joint agreement proposing police reforms in light of the DOJ report on police misconduct in Chicago. At this stage, their report is only a draft. It has been issued to solicit public comments. A final, revised report is due to be filed in court later this fall.
After the publication of a 2017 DOJ report tracing the recent history of police misconduct in Chicago, the Attorney General of the United States dismissed the findings of the report and refused to enforce it. As a result, a group representing Black Lives Matter, the ACLU, and the Attorney General for Illinois filed separate lawsuits to implement the reforms called for in the DOJ report. Pushed by those suits, the Chicago government began to work with those groups to draft a consent decree desigbed to control police misconduct.
It has been a long and contentious process. The Police Accountability Task Force, offered a report. Community and activists groups prepared a draft decree to help guide the process. When parts of a draft agreement were leaked (here) the FOP objected to the elements of the proposal.
July 31: more reactions to the draft: From a mayoral candidate (and the former president of the Chicago Police Board). From the governor of Illinois.
And from August, another important discussion. Still more here.
A review of works that consider the disturbing intersection of violence, constitutional order, criminal justice, and white power: Elizabeth Dale, Victims’ Rights and White Power, JOTWELL (July 13, 2018).
We all too often ignore the role courts play in enabling police misconduct, ignoring prosecutorial excess, and expanding mass incarceration.
This article notes one instance (a bail decision) where a judge advanced criminal justice reform.
Police misconduct in Chicago (predictably) gives rise to problems in the courts:
At least 37 criminal cases have been dropped by State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office since Chicago police removed Elizondo and Salgado from street duties on Jan. 31, according to the analysis of Police Department arrest data obtained through an open records request as well as court records.
This description of what happened in 1988:
During interrogation, Kitchen says, officers handcuffed him to the wall and beat him repeatedly with a nightstick, a telephone, a telephone book, and their own fists.
Sounds a lot like what Robert Nixon claimed happened to him in 1938:
After that, several officers (Nixon guessed there were about six) had him stand on something while they cuffed his arms to the wall. Once his arms were secured, they kicked whatever he had been standing on out from under him, leaving him hanging by his arms.