[Ppnews] Chicago Police - Burge, & Current Torture Practices

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Oct 27 10:55:08 EDT 2008

October 24, 2008


Burge, & Current Interrogation Practices

­ Posted by Tracy Siska @ 2:52 pm

The news this week that former Police Commander 
Burge has been indicted on federal charges nearly 
thirty years after the alleged crimes is very 
important.  This long overdue prosecution exposes 
the striking, continuous, and deliberate refusal 
by the accountability departments within the 
agencies, policy makers, the media, and the 
courts, to focus their attention on what occurs 
inside Chicago Police interrogation rooms.  The 
reporting of the indictment relies on 
retrospective coverage of the abuse that occurred 
at the hands of the Chicago Police 
Department.  However, the discussion fails to 
evaluate if Burge’s tactics are part of history 
or if they have only been refined for modern use.

Recognizing Ongoing and Persistent Dangers
We know looking at ongoing civil litigation that 
abuse at within interrogation rooms is ongoing & 
persistent.  It is time for accountability 
departments within the agencies to recognize 
torture when it occurs and for policy makers, the 
courts, and the media to catch up on the state of 
the art in coercive interrogation tactics.  Sleep 
deprivation and holding suspects incommunicado 
for days have replaced the electric shock box 
used by Burge and his cronies.  The case study 
below demonstrates from ongoing litigation that 
coercive interrogation tactics continue to be 
used on a regular basis.  Hoping for politicians 
to stop the practice is fruitless, as Chicago 
history and present political leaders have 
demonstrated over the last thirty 
years.  Political careers have been made off the 
results of tortured confessions so public 
attention to these issues will be required to improve policing practices.

Journalists like 
Brown at the Sun Times and 
Kass at the Chicago Tribune need to start 
focusing on what occurs today, as you read this, 
within the interrogation rooms of our police 
department.  There is no oversight within the 
structure of the 
<http://www.iprachicago.org/>Independent Police 
Review Authority or the 
Police Board to audit Chicago Police Records.  No 
one verifies that they are not holding suspects 
past legal requirements and/or using 
psychological torture tactics within the initial 
48 hours to coerce confessions.  We are once 
again in Chicago operating under a 
us” structure that leads to abuse and torture.

US Attorney 
Fitzgerald hosted a press conference to announce 
indictment. The most significant thing he said 
was his choice to employ the word 
to describe Burge’s action - a word we have not 
heard from another single policy maker, political 
figure, criminal justice official, or cook county 
judge in all the thirty years of this 
saga.   Since 911, our concept of torture has 
been skewed by efforts to alter a long-standing 
internationally agreed upon definition. We must 
work to reinforce our definitions of torture, 
internationally, nationally and locally.  If we 
continue to use the new definition we are going 
to find ourselves repeating past mistakes.

Under the new definition of torture, tactics used 
by the Chicago Police Department are not only 
legal, but also encouraged.  We must understand 
that psychological torture tactics are not just 
as bad a physical torture tactics, they are worse.

Psychological torture tactics are far more 
insidious to the criminal justice system because 
there are no physical scars from physiological 
torture.  It is impossible to understand how for 
twenty years 
County Criminal Court Judges could have possible 
missed the overt signs of physical torture in 
their courtrooms.  History provides no 
encouraging evidence that the ability of 
similarly situated judges in Cook County will 
have the ability to detect the results of 
psychological torture in their courtrooms.

The Lopez case study demonstrates that the 
current state of the art coercive tactics being 
deployed in police interrogation rooms in Chicago 
are psychological.  The federal courts have shown 
it is beyond their power to stop these tactics 
being widely throughout the Department’s 
detective division.  Coercive interrogation 
tactics have been at the heart of interrogation 
in Chicago for the greater part of the last 100 
years.  Joseph Lopez’ illegal detention case and 
resulting class action case are examples of the 
lengths the Chicago Police Department will go to 
keep the practices in use, despite the financial 
losses in civil litigation.  This case study is 
an excerpt of a five part series I wrote on this 
civil litigation.  You can find these series 
I, <http://www.chicagojustice.org/blog/?p=14>Part 
IV, <http://www.chicagojustice.org/blog/?p=28>Part V.

Case Study:
Litigation resulting from abuse perpetrated on 
the body and mind of Joseph Lopez (Joseph Lopez 
v. City of Chicago, and Chicago Police Detectives 
Jennifer Belafonte, Daniel Jacons, and Hector 
Vergara, 01CV182) by Chicago Police during his 4 
days of illegal detention and interrogation 
uncovered a twenty plus year pattern and practice 
within the Chicago Police Department of illegal 
detention of suspects on warrantless arrests.

The Lopez case uncovered a practice within the 
Chicago Police Department of arresting young 
people of color without a warrant in case 
involving violent crimes.  The practice was 
codified in the general orders dating back at 
least to the mid-1970s and was called “holding 
suspects past court call”.  Also uncovered as 
part of the Lopez litigation was the fact that 
the CPD has lost a class action resulting from 
this practice in 1986, (Robinson v. City of 
Chicago 638 F. Supp 186 (N.D. Ill. 986)).  At 
that point the CPD had assured the federal 
appellate court of appeals that they had 
rewritten the general order that codified the 
practice and the practice was stopped.  The CPD 
benefited from the practice and was not about the 
end the practice without greater pressure.  The 
general order was never circulated within the 
department to notify officers that the previous 
general order was changed and thus the practice never stopped!

Joseph Lopez, 18, was arrested on July 19th, 2000 
without a warrant for the murder of 12-year-old 
Miguel DeLaRosa.  He was held for 4 days and 
nights in an interrogation room with the lights 
on all the time, cuffed to the wall most of the 
time.  At the end of the four days, Lopez falsely 
confessed to the murder, he was subsequently 
released weeks later when the real culprit was 
apprehended.  Lopez sued the CPD and, after much 
litigation, settled his suit; however, a separate 
class action suit was born from the discovery 
process involved in Lopez’s suit, the Thomas Dunn 
Complaint 04-CV-06804)

The Dunn case was certified as a class action on 
October 5, 2005.  On the day Chicago Police 
Superintendent Terry Hillard retired, August 15, 
2003, he circulated the general order that had 
been rewritten almost twenty years earlier as a 
result of the Robinson case.  The date of 
certification of the Dunn case is important 
because of the date structure of the third class certified in the case.

Class III: All persons arrested on suspicion of a 
felony without an arrest warrant and who were 
detained by the CPD in excess of 48 hours without 
a judicial probable cause hearing any time from 
March 15th until the date of certification.

If we examine the date Hillard circulated the 
general order, August 15, 2003, and the date of 
the certification, October 5, 2005, we see that 
even after the general order was circulated the 
practice did not stop because the judge included 
in third class cases that occurred after the date 
Hillard circulated the general order.

The Lopez case has received little to no media 
attention and no attention from policy makers, 
accountability departments within the criminal 
justice agencies, or the courts.  To my 
knowledge, not a single case in Cook County 
criminal court has had a confession tossed because of an illegal detention.

For all the bellowing about the fact that more 
should have been done twenty years ago to stop 
Burge, nothing is being done to stop the illegal 
and abusive tactics of today.  Neither the 
Independent Police Review Authority nor the 
Chicago Police Board is equipped either 
financially or with the necessary political power 
to gain the access they would need track this 
abuse.  With policy makers continuing to pay the 
same attention to this issue they have Burge over 
the last thirty years we are left with no 
options.  Psychological torture will continue to 
be the rule rather than the exception within 
police interrogation rooms in Chicago.

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