There are new revelations in the continuing nightmare that is Homan Square, the CIA-style black site facility in which the Chicago police have made Black men disappear, and where thousands of them have faced torture, their whereabouts unknown.
According to reporting from “The Guardian,” at least 735 people, of whom more than 6,000 are Black, have been interrogated and detained at the facility, without being granted access to a lawyer and without public knowledge of their whereabouts. Chicago police department documents reveal that at least 14 men in police custody were subjected to physical force from officers.
As was found from documents released to “The Guardian” in connection with its lawsuit against the police, officers “used punches, knee strikes, elbow strikes, slaps, wrist twists, baton blows and Tasers” at Homan Square, despite police denials concerning the harsh treatment of detainees.
“The allegation that physical violence is a part of interviews with suspects is unequivocally false, it is offensive, and it is not supported by any facts whatsoever,” the CPD insisted in March 2015.
In these new documents, all of the arrestees were subject to force after they were placed in police custody, some of the men requiring hospitalization as a result of the ordeal, including one who was Tasered. According to “The Guardian,” some of those who were injured in Homan Square have experienced chronic pain years after the incident occurred. One man, already handcuffed, was told to lie about his own strangulation, and the police report said it had resulted from the man “manag[ing] to put another flex cuff around his neck.” Another man — listed as an “assailant” in police reports — was hit by police for launching an “attack without weapon,” namely “spitting blood.”
The CPD has been rocked by scandal, in light of the treatment of prisoners in the secret facility, and the shooting deaths of unarmed Black men by police — the most prominent being the 2014 killing of Laquan McDonald — leading to citywide protest and calls for the resignation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Rather than resign, Emanuel selected Eddie Johnson, an African-American and 27-year veteran of the police force, as interim superintendent of police, according to “The New York Times.” Emanuel had fired Garry F. McCarthy, the previous police chief, following the announcement that the U.S. Department of Justice would investigate the troubled police department.
The new reports of brutality at Homan Square come as the Chicago City Council agreed to pay nearly $6.5 million to the families of two men who died in police custody, according to “USA Today.” This includes a $4.95 million settlement to the family of Philip Coleman, 38, who was repeatedly Tasered and beaten by Chicago police hours before he died, and a $1.5 million payment to the family of Justin Cook, 29, an asthmatic man who was reportedly refused an inhaler after he was arrested following a car and foot police chase.
Meanwhile, the Chicago police are monitoring peaceful protest groups. According to the “Chicago Sun-Times,” the Chicago police has been spying on protesters, with undercover cops attending meetings of churches, philanthropic groups and Black Lives Matter activists. Since 2009, only one police request to spy on protesters was rejected. The “Sun-Times” had reported that the police also spied on “anti-Olympics protesters, the Service Employees International Union, critics of the visiting Chinese premier, the Occupy movement and NATO Summit demonstrators.” Further, in late 2014 and early 2015, following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the Chicago police monitored Black demonstrators and kept tabs on events held by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and others. The ACLU of Illinois issued a statement calling the reports “unsettling” and calling for City Council hearings, as was reported in the “Northwest Herald.”
This news comes as officers in seven of 22 Chicago police districts plan to receive more than 450 body cameras. As the “Chicago Tribune” reported, the cameras have the capacity to record 72 continuous hours of high-definition video and audio on a single charge.
“Body cameras are one tool that the police department uses to serve and protect the people of Chicago,” said interim superintendent Johnson in a statement. “They play an important role in not just fighting crime, but also in learning from actual encounters with the public. In addition to wearing a body camera myself, I’ve asked my command staff to wear one as well to demonstrate our commitment to rebuilding trust with the residents we’re sworn to serve.”