Stories Continue To Emerge From Chicago Police Department 'Black Site'

By aaroncynic in News on Feb 27, 2015 9:20PM

Despite vague and predictable non-answers from Chicago Police officials and lackluster “reporting” from the majority of local sources, more disturbing revelations from the CPD's facility on Homan Avenue have emerged.

On Wednesday, CPD responded to a Guardian expose detailing CIA style interrogation tactics at the building on the 3300 block of West Fillmore Street with a typical “nothing to see here” attitude, calling NATO demonstrator Brian Church's allegations of torture and abuse “false,” and blaming the death of another detainee, John Hubbard, on an accidental heroin overdose.

New stories of abuse and interrogation tactics reminiscent of now freed police torturer Jon Burge however, continue to make national headlines. Kory Wright, a now 29 year old man living in Bronzeville, told The Intercept's Juan Carlson of his 2006 experience with several others at the Homan facility:

For six hours, a sweaty Wright sat zip-tied to a bench with no access to a restroom, a telephone or water. “They strapped me — like across, kind of — to a bench, and my hands were strapped on both sides of me,” he says. “I can’t even scratch my face.” When Wright first arrived at Homan, he was left alone for a while in the hot room. Wright asked the police if he could call his mother, but instead, various police officers came “in and out. They were badgering me with questions. ‘Tell me about this murder!’” one officer shouted. Wright provided his interrogator with false information and names, with the hope of making it stop. He told me he was “trying to get out of the situation and give them something they wanted.”

Wright was picked up in an undercover drug bust, along with two other relatives and a friend, Deandre Hutcherson. Hutcherson told The Intercept that while shackled to a bench, an officer hit him “two or three times” before kicking him in the groin. He said he was released without charges after faking an asthma attack.

Meanwhile, another NATO demonstrator swept up in the Bridgeport raid just prior to the demonstrations, detailed her experiences to Spencer Ackerman at the Guardian, who published the original expose. Vic Suter, who was arrested alongside Brian Church, was held for 18 hours in the facility before she was allowed to contact an attorney. The officer driving Suter to the warehouse told her she would “get a tour of hell in Homan.” After being shackled to a bench, police interrogated her for some 18 hours before sending her to an actual precinct, booking her and allowing her to call her mother. She was released without charges after spending a night in a holding cell.

“Not being able to communicate outwardly by making a phone call or talking to a lawyer, and not being booked in so that someone can find you, you’re a hostage,” Suter told Ackerman. “It’s kidnapping.”

Several local politicians expressed shock and surprise at the revelations about the warehouse on Homan, wondering how such a thing could exist for years right under their noses. Raw Story reports Congressman Danny Davis, who represents the neighborhood where the facility is located, said he was “terribly saddened” by the story and expressed support for an investigation by the Department of Justice. Cook County commissioner Richard Boykin, who also called for a DOJ investigation, said:

“I hadn’t heard of the sort of CIA or Gestapo tactics that were mentioned in the Guardian article until it was brought to my attention.”

The real shock and surprise here should come at the collective shrug from both local politicians and media. In the fallout of the NATO demonstrations, Firedoglake published an account from an activist scooped up in the same Bridgeport raid Church and Suter were. The account, published under a pseudonym, tells a similar story of being shackled to a bench, taunted and abused by police and being denied access to legal council and bathroom facilities.

Though some local politicians say this might be the first time they've heard of such tactics being used at the facility, it's hardly surprising these things are taking place. Jerry Boyle, a lawyer and member of the Chicago chapter of the National Lawyer's Guild, said that the site, and practice of disappearing arrestees, is an all too common practice. “Lawyers have known for awhile that Homan is a black hole,” said Boyle. “When you can't find your client and all else fails, you try that. If you get lucky, they might acknowledge they have your client.”

Boyle said roughly ten years ago, a family member of a client called him to report an arrest. “I tried the usual things, asked where he was arrested, where the alleged offense occurred. They didn't know. I called central booking - they're usually the last to know - so I started calling over to Homan.” Boyle said that after several rounds of calls to inside sources he learned his client was at the warehouse, but when he went to it, he was denied entry or access to his client.

The problem with the Homan site, as well as many other instances of police abuse, is that there's little or no accountability when nothing goes to court. Whether or not the rights of an arrestee were violated plays out in the legal system, and if nothing goes to court or gets reported, little happens. “There is no punishment available for a violation of an arrestee's constitutional rights unless they (the police) fess up to the fact,” said Boyle. “Homan square is the blackest of the black holes.”

While the majority of local media have been busy either reprinting non-answers from police officials or shamefully belittling and even outright mocking the victims who've come forward, we shouldn't forget or shrug our shoulders at these stories. The fact that they're “nothing new,” should be the kind of thing media and politicians feel both shock and outrage about, rather than shaking our heads and doing nothing. According to the Chicago Reporter, the City paid out $54.2 million last year alone in settlements stemming from police misconduct, which doesn't even include fees paid to its own lawyers. If anything, that alone shows this is the sort of thing that's far from isolated and far from over.