Say “No!” to Business as Usual for the CPD, Mayor’s Office, and Justice Department
Following the framing and arrest of the Austin Seven in 1996,
CPD Deputy Superintendent for Internal Affairs, Michael W. Hoke,
who planned the illegal investigation and criminal staged robbery,
appeared on Chicago Tonight and claimed this was all on the up and up.
But the details of the case and the history of the CPD show otherwise.
The Chicago Police Department’s latest scandal, erasing and suppressing evidence of a brutal murder by one of its officers, has, fortunately, crossed the threshold of public tolerance.
This type of reaction has happened many times before—because the department is corrupt from top to bottom, with the good officers marginalized by the “code of silence”—but we’d like to think there are enough concerned people willing to stand up and force a meaningful reorganization of the department, including a civilian oversight board that is democratically elected via verifiable elections.
For anyone new to Chicago political and economic corruption, here’s an abbreviated list of some of the lowlights in the sordid history beginning with the reign of Mayor Richard J. Daley, master of “The Machine”:
1960: Summerdale scandals result in illusory changes
Eight officers from the Summerdale police district on Chicago’s North Side were found guilty of operating a large-scale burglary ring. Mayor Daley appointed a committee to make recommendations for improvements to the police department, resulting in the creation of a five-member board charged with nominating a superintendent to be the chief authority over the CPD, enacting rules and regulations, submitting budget requests to the city council, and overseeing disciplinary cases.
1968: Democratic National Convention police riot
As the anti-war protesters noted, the whole world was watching as the police, their cars adorned with George Wallace for President bumper stickers, attacked the crowd.
Time magazine published an article stating:
“With billy clubs, tear gas and Mace, the blue-shirted, blue-helmeted cops violated the civil rights of countless innocent citizens and contravened every accepted code of professional police discipline.”
Subsequently, the Walker Report to the U.S. National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence called the CPD’s actions a “police riot.”
1969: The Black Panther raid
Unnerved by the Black Panther Party’s defense of the black community and verbal attacks on their oppressors, CPD officers working for the Cook County state’s attorney raided an apartment and murdered party leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. The police claimed that they were attacked, but an investigation showed that the police came in firing. Relatives of Hampton and Clark eventually won a multimillion dollar judgment against the City of Chicago.
1972 to 1991: Jon Burge escapes torture charges via statute of limitations
Former CPD Commander Jon Burge abused more than two-hundred mostly African-American men to coerce confessions to crimes. Victims said that Burge and his crew of detectives had them beaten, suffocated, burned, and treated with electric shock. Burge was fired from the department in 1993. In 2006, special prosecutors determined that they had enough evidence to prove crimes against Burge and others, but “regrettably” could not bring charges because the statute of limitations had passed. In January 2008, the City Council approved a $19.8 million settlement with four men who claimed abuse against Burge and his men.
In October 2008, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, had Burge arrested on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury in relation to a civil suit regarding the torture allegations against him. Burge was eventually convicted on all counts on June 28, 2010 and was sentenced to four and one half years in federal prison on January 21, 2011.
On May 6, 2015, the Chicago City Council approved “reparations” of $5.5 million to victims of the torture, after spending $100 million in previous legal settlements. In addition, an apology was offered, and a promise to teach school children about these historical events.
1998: CPD tries to arrest two children for murder
An 11-year-old girl, Ryan Harris, was found raped and murdered in a vacant lot in the city’s Englewood neighborhood. The story went national when authorities, with the blessing of police command, charged a 7-year-old boy and 8-year-old boy with the murder. Semen found at the scene and subsequent DNA tests pointed to convicted sex offender Floyd Durr. Each of the boys filed lawsuits against the City of Chicago, which were eventually settled for millions of dollars. Durr pled guilty to the rape of Harris, though never admitting to her murder.
2001: Veteran CPD officer convicted of racketeering and conspiracy
Joseph Miedzianowski, a veteran of 22 years with the CPD, was convicted of racketeering and drug conspiracy. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. His partner, John Galligan, and 24 other drug dealers were also arrested as part of the same investigation.
2001: CPD administrator runs a jewel theft ring
Deputy Superintendent William Hanhardt plead guilty to running a nationwide jewel-theft ring for over twenty years that stole approximately five million dollars’ worth of diamonds and other gems. He was a 33-year veteran of the police force. He was sentenced to twelve years in federal custody.
2002: CPD arrests nurse and forces confession
On her way to work, Rachelle Jackson, a registered nurse, witnessed a vehicle accident involving a patrol car, in which Officer Kelly Brogan was dazed and her partner was unconscious. Given the damages to the police vehicle, Jackson feared an explosion. She removed both officers from the vehicle, and voluntarily went to the police station under the assumption of giving a statement. She was informed that Brogan’s service weapon was stolen, and was then interrogated for two days with little food or sleep. She was finally coerced to sign a statement that she had battered Brogan and taken her gun. She was jailed for 10 months before the charges were dismissed. Later, Jackson was awarded $7.9 million from a jury in her lawsuit against Brogan and the city. In 2009, the amount was reduced to $1.9 million.
2009: CPD false arrest and abuse of on-duty nurse
Lisa Hoffman, a nurse, was on-duty when a police officer demanded a blood test for a suspected DUI driver. Because the suspect had not been admitted as a patient, Hoffman had to consult her supervisor for proper procedure. The officer then became combative and argued with her until hospital security found it necessary to evict him. He returned immediately and placed Hoffman in handcuffs, and then kept her in his patrol car for over 45 minutes. He was seen smiling on the surveillance camera while keeping her in the vehicle. Hoffman sued the officer and city for false arrest and excessive force. The city settled for $78,000 without taking any disciplinary action against the officer.
2007: Special treatment for police charged with felonious battery, another toothless oversight board, and court recognized “code of silence”
An intoxicated off-duty police officer, Anthony Abbate, was shown in security camera footage punching and kicking a female bartender, Karolina Obrycka, after Obrycka refused to serve him any more alcohol. When the video surfaced and was broadcast, Abbate was arrested and charged with felony battery, and soon terminated.
Abbate was allowed to enter his courtroom hearing through a side door to shield himself from the press, and the police ticketed the vehicles of news organizations and threatened reporters with arrest. Superintendent Philip Cline announced that he would demote the Captain who gave the orders, and investigate the actions of the other officers involved.
Fourteen additional charges against Abbate were announced, including official misconduct, conspiracy, and intimidation. Abbate pled not guilty to all 15 charges.
Following this and another similar scandal involving a videotaped police beating at a bar, Cline retired. Mayor Richard M. Daley announced a plan to create the Independent Police Review Authority.
Attorneys representing Obrycka filed a lawsuit against the city of Chicago and Abbate and several other individuals in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois by. A federal jury found that a “widespread code of silence” within the Chicago Police Department enabled Abbate to feel that he could attack Obrycka without fear of reprisal. They also found that Abbate participated in a conspiracy to cover up the attack. The jury awarded Obrycka $850,000 in damages.
Abbate was convicted of aggravated battery, a felony. Abbate faced up to five years in prison for the attack, but received two years of probation including a curfew between 8 pm and 6 am, mandatory attendance at anger management classes, and 130 hours of community service.
2007: CPD Special Operations Sections robberies, admission that police corruption is the rule, and a continued lack of disciplinary action against the police
Officer Jerome Finnigan
of the Chicago police in 2006.
Over 18 years, 68 citizen
complaints were filed against him.
Photo credit: Charles Rex Arbogast
Four Chicago Police Officers—Jerome Finnigan, Keith Herrera, Carl Suchocki, and Thomas Sherry—from the Special Operations Sections (SOS) were indicted for robbery, kidnapping, home invasion, and other charges. The officers had allegedly robbed drug dealers and ordinary citizens of money, drugs, and guns for years, however it was not until 2004 that the allegations were investigated, when the State’s Attorney became aware that the officers repeatedly missed court dates and allowed alleged drug dealers to go free.
Lawsuits alleging misconduct on behalf of the team were filed in federal court. Following the original indictments, Jerome Finnigan was charged with attempting to have several fellow officers killed. SOS was disbanded after the scandal surfaced.
On November 19, 2015, The New York Times reported:
“In 18 years with the Chicago Police Department, the nation’s second-largest, Jerome Finnigan had never been disciplined — although 68 citizen complaints had been lodged against him, including accusations that he used excessive force and regularly conducted illegal searches.
“Then, in 2011, he admitted to robbing criminal suspects while serving in an elite police unit and ordering a hit on a fellow police officer he thought intended to turn him in. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison. “My bosses knew what I was doing out there, and it went on and on,” he said in court when he pleaded guilty. “And this wasn’t the exception to the rule. This was the rule.””
Indeed, from 2011 to 2015, 97 percent of more than 28,500 citizen complaints resulted in no officer being punished.
2011: CPD officer murders suspect, walks free, and the city pays again
Chicago police officer Gildardo Sierra and a partner responded to a domestic disturbance call allegedly involving Flint Farmer. Farmer fled when confronted by the police. Sierra shot at Farmer multiple times, hitting him in the leg and abdomen. Publicly available police video shows Sierra circling the prone Farmer and firing at him three times. The coroner who performed the autopsy reported that Farmer could have survived the shots to the leg and abdomen, but any of the three shots through the back would have been fatal. Officer Sierra was involved in two other shootings in 2011. Although the Chicago Police Department ruled the shooting justified, Sierra was stripped of his police powers and the FBI had opened an investigation into the incident. No charges were brought against the officers, but he city settled the civil case with Farmer’s family for $4.1 million without admitting fault.
1977—2014: CPD officer Richard Zuley, career torturer
Richard Zuley’s career is listed as interrogator, but based on various eye-witness accounts he should be described as a career torturer who forced confession from even the most resilient innocent suspects. He was so well-known for his techniques that he was asked to take a special assignment at Guantanomo, to help the military torture suspects they accused of terrorism.
Based on their investigation, Amnesty International’s University of Chicago Chapter says, “The similarities between Zuley’s careers in Chicago and in Guantanamo Bay suggest a disturbing blurring of the line between domestic and military policing. His reversal of the “innocent until proven guilty” assumption, which grounds the United States judicial system, as well as his threats towards his victims’ families, are startling in both cases. Yet, just as in the case of Detective Burge, all of the individuals surrounding him enabled the violence and injustice to endure.””
The Conviction Integrity Unit of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office plans to subpoena Zuley’s entire complaint history. Zuley faces multiple lawsuits from individuals who claim he framed them, or beat confessions from them. Meanwhile, Zuley still works at the Chicago Department of Aviation and is not returning any phone calls.
CPD torture program continues at Homan Square
As can be seen in Zuley’s case, torture at the hands of the Chicago Police Department did not end with the incarceration of Jon Burge and the immunity of his henchmen—including Michael W. Hoke, who later became Deputy Superintendent of Internal Affairs with the express orders to frame TC McCoy II and Jerry Saffold—it simply moved to a different facility and changed perpetrators, until today, when it has become a major operation of the department itself.
In February 2015, Guardian US, the American edition of the British daily, reported that the Chicago Police Department “operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.”
According to Guardian US, the facility, the Homan Square Police Warehouse at 1011 S. Homan Avenue in Chicago, “has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units.”
The article goes on to say that interviews with local attorneys and one protester:
“… describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights … The secretive warehouse … trains its focus on Americans, most often poor, black and brown … Witnesses, suspects or other Chicagoans who end up inside do not appear to have a public, searchable record entered into a database indicating where they are, as happens when someone is booked at a precinct.
“Lawyers and relatives insist there is no way of finding their whereabouts. Those lawyers who have attempted to gain access to Homan Square are most often turned away, even as their clients remain in custody inside.”
After the Guardian US, published the story, the Chicago Police denied all charges, saying that there is nothing improper taking place. On December 8, 2015, Mother Jones magazine reported that, in October 2015, Attorney Flint Taylor filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of three clients who allege they suffered unconstitutional abuses while detained there. Taylor described the Homan facility as “an intelligence gathering place” akin to a CIA “black site.”
Eight months after the CPD’s denials, according to an analysis of data disclosed to the Guardian US, “police allowed lawyers access to Homan Square for only 0.94% of the 7,185 arrests logged over nearly 11 years. That percentage aligns with Chicago police’s broader practice of providing minimal access to attorneys during the crucial early interrogation stage, when an arrestee’s constitutional rights against self-incrimination are most vulnerable.”
According Guardian US’ most recent disclosure of Homan Square data, CPD’s torture program is racist at its core:
• 82.2% of people detained at Homan Square were black, compared with 32.9% of the Chicago population.
• 11.8% of detainees in the Homan Square logs were Hispanic, compared with 28.9% of the population.
• 5.5% of the detainees were white, compared with 31.7% of the population.
• Of the 68 people who Chicago police claim had access to counsel at Homan Square, however, 45% were black, 26% were Hispanic and another 26% were white.
“Homan Square is kind of the elephant in the room with regard to all that’s going on—the police shootings and the videotapes and all of that,” Taylor says. “Whether it’s Burge’s torture, Homan Square, or shooting down unarmed African American young men. Whether it’s transparency and properly disciplining the kinds of cops who repeatedly do these things. All of this is part of an integrated whole that needs to be looked at. Until you start to view it all as a systemic problem, you’re not going to be able to attempt to remedy any of it.”
2014: Laquan McDonald murder by CPD officer Jason Van Dyke, lies by Van Dyke and his partner, suppression of evidence, and the pending U.S. Justice Department “investigation”
Officer Van Dyke fired 16 bullets into an unarmed Laquan McDonald, claiming that he feared for his safety. The videotape of the incident was suppressed by the police and covered up by the Mayor’s office (Rahm Emanuel). When a reporter finally forced the release of the videotape, it was clear that McDonald was walking away from police. After McDonald had been cut down by the first bullets, Van Dyke continued to pump more bullets into him.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, and the Chicago Police Department have all been accused of trying to keep the video from the public. On December 1, 2015, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel fired Police Superintendent Garry F. McCarthy, but calls for Emanuel’s and Alvarez’ resignation continue. Demonstrations continue at various events associated with the killing, as well as more general protests by #BlackLivesMatter. Van Dyke is free on bail. He pleaded not guilty on December 29, 2015, to charges of first-degree murder and official misconduct.
With a straight face, the DOJ says it plans to investigate whether any of the department’s practices contribute to civil rights violations.
Just the Tip of the Iceberg
While this list of the Chicago Police Department’s criminal history is by no means comprehensive, it serves as proof that all previous promises of cleaning up the unholy alliance of city hall, the courts, the police, criminal drug trafficking has been no more than window dressing, while the crimes of business as usual continue uninterrupted.
From 2004 to 2013, the Chicago police paid $521.3 million in settlements, legal fees, judgments awarded, and more, according to a study published by the Better Government Association.
The BGA also found 1,611 lawsuits filed in relation to police misconduct between 2009-2013, most of which alleged the police had used excessive force. In 2015, more than 99% of all civilian complaints against Chicago police have resulted in no officer discipline, according to The New York Times.
Van Dyke, the officer who killed McDonald, was the subject of 18 civilian complaints (including excessive force and racial slurs) prior to that fatal shooting, but had never been disciplined.
According to the Times, Officer Van Dyke is not alone. 647 officers with more allegations against them have also never been penalized. In many instances where an allegation was not upheld, the person filing the complaint had not signed a sworn affidavit.
The Times report continues:
“More than half of the complaints were against white officers, but 36 percent of the disciplined officers were white. Nearly a quarter of the complaints were against black officers, but 41 percent of the disciplined officers were black.
“While 62 percent of complaints were filed by blacks, 28 percent of them led to at least one officer being disciplined. In contrast, 20 percent of complaints were filed by whites, but 57 percent of them led to officer discipline.”
The code of silence
One of the key means, by which such systematic racism is maintained against black citizens and black police officers, is the “code of silence.” As noted above, the CPD’s “code of silence” was recognized by a jury in 2007. It continues today.
A lawsuit based on an investigation in 2012 has been making its way through the federal court in Chicago that, theoretically, has the potential to subject the Chicago Police Department to federal oversight.
The premise of the lawsuit is that anyone within the department that reports corruption is “ostracized and punished and held out as examples to other officers to keep quiet about what they see.”
Shannon Spalding and her partner, Daniel Echeverria, testified as part of a 2012 investigation which led to charges against Sgt. Ronald Watts and police officer Kallatt Mohammed, who were accused of stealing money from drug dealers. In the end, Watts and Mohammed were only accused with shaking down a single undercover informant who had been posing as a courier. But Spalding and Echeverria say the investigation was stopped before it snared at least half a dozen more officers.
The NBC report quotes Spaulding:
“I think that the public should be very angry that corruption is allowed to continue, and that officers who want to report it are retaliated against … The code of silence is so strong, the fear of what will happen to you is so strong, that nobody wants to come forward.”
As a result of Spaulding and Echeverria testimony, their role in the undercover investigation was intentionally leaked within the department, leading ostracism and intimidation at the hands of commanders and fellow officers.
Spaulding and Echeverria’s claims have now been corroborated by a former officer, Janet Hanna, a 20-year department veteran, who says she witnessed the harassment when the two officers were assigned with her in the fugitive apprehension unit.
The NBC report goes on to say that:
“… in addition to dead end assignments, Hanna said she overheard her bosses instructing other officers in the unit that Spalding and Echeverria were not to be given backup if they called for it.
“I have had many officers approach me and say, ‘We know about corruption. Should we come forward?’ and I say, ‘It will ruin your life,’” she said. “It’s no secret that if you go against the code of silence, and you report corruption, it will ruin your career.”
The illusion of U.S. Justice Department oversight
After the notorious beating of Rodney King by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in 1991 and the local judicial exoneration of the four officers involved, the U.S. Justice Department stepped in, eventually convicting the two officers who mauled King. Later, in 2000, the Justice Department negotiated a consent decree, which gave them oversight over the LAPD for five years, in exchange for dropping a lawsuit against the city.
According to PBS Frontline’s investigation:
“Under the agreement, the L.A.P.D. is required to develop a computerized database which would contain information on police officers including: all uses of lethal and non-lethal force; all officer-involved shooting incidents and firearms discharges; all incidents in which a complaint has been filed against the officer; and all arrest reports and citations made by the officers, including motor vehicle and pedestrian stops. In addition, the database would contain information about those persons detailed by the officer — including demographic information such as race, ethnicity, gender, and age. The consent decree requires that supervisors must review all information in the database about officers under their command on a regular basis, in order to assess whether any officer or group of officers is engaging in at-risk behavior. Using information from this database, the L.A.P.D. must perform regular audits to be reported quarterly to the Police Commission and Inspector General. The audits must include random samples of: warrant applications; arrest, booking, and charging reports; use-of-force reports; motor vehicle and pedestrian stops; use-of-force investigations; and complaint investigations.
“Audits of L.A.P.D. reports must entail:
“… at a minimum, a review for completeness of the information contained and an authenticity review to include an examination for ‘canned’ language, inconsistent information, lack of articulation of the legal basis for the applicable action or other indicia that the information in the document is not authentic or correct.”
Yet, 15 years later, the results from such consent decrees are mixed, as follow up research by PBS Frontline and the Washington Post note:
“But measured by incidents of use of force, one of Justice’s primary metrics, the outcomes are mixed. In five of the 10 police departments for which sufficient data was provided, use of force by officers increased during and after the agreements. In five others, it stayed the same or declined.
“None of the departments completed reforms by the targeted dates, the review found. In most, the interventions have dragged years beyond original projections, driving up costs. In 13 of the police departments for which budget data was available, costs are expected to surpass $600 million, expenses largely passed on to local taxpayers.
“To examine the impact, reporters surveyed the departments, visiting four cities. They interviewed officials, federal monitors and civil rights advocates. They also reviewed use-of-force data, monitoring reports and local budgets.”
Looking for justice in all the wrong places
The premises underlying such consent decrees (with the the astronomical costs of their implementation) is that the problem lies at the local level and that such interventions can have a positive effect in overcoming the issues that underlie police crimes.
Such premises turn a blind eye to the operational nature of the economic and political power structure that uses such reforms as smoke and mirrors to continue to implement the internationalization and militarization of police forces in the U.S., Europe, and other places where said economic and political power structure controls the action.
For example, in 2011, with the #OccupyWallStreet movement in full swing around the world, with hundreds of thousands of protesters filling the streets of many of the planet’s major cities, JPMorgan Chase directly paid the New York Police Department for protection. Later, on orders coordinated through the FBI, the entire movement was shut down within two weeks.
Following this, there was a great uproar over the subsidized sale of U.S. military equipment to local police departments, with President Obama eventually promising to curtail such sales. Since that time, discussion of the militarization program has all but disappeared from the corporate press.
Under such circumstances, with the use of excessive force as modus operandi at every level of government and the failure of the U.S. Justice Department to implement meaningful reform, local citizens must look to themselves for answers. One alternative, being proposed by the Chicago chapter of the National Alliance Against Racism & Political Repression, is a democratically elected citizens oversight board to oversee the policies and activities of the CPD.
Such an idea deserves consideration, especially if the elections were held by paper ballot and properly monitored; after all, we know that Chicago has always been a leader in vote theft.
In the short term, we must seek justice for all those murdered, tortured, incarcerated, ostracized, and slandered by the CPD, including the Austin Seven.