AFRICANGLOBE – Handcuffed to a wall inside a cell with no windows, Deanda Wilson was forced to urinate on himself after a police sergeant allegedly held a knife to his throat during an interrogation at Homan Square. Falsely charged with the manufacture and distribution of heroin, Wilson and his co-defendants were imprisoned for 15 months before a judge found them not guilty.
As the Cook County Commissioner and a state representative both call for a federal investigation into the CIA-style torture chamber known as Homan Square, Chicago police union officials are fighting to incinerate decades of police misconduct records. Although the city, an investigative journalist, and a University of Chicago law school professor have battled in court to preserve the misconduct records, police unions argue that red-flagged officers should not be judged by their marred past.
While Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin and the Board of Commissioners prepare to address a resolution on Wednesday calling on the DOJ to expand its investigation into Homan Square, leaders of the Chicago NAACP and state Rep. La Shawn Ford are working to prevent the Chicago Police Department from destroying any police misconduct files older than five years.
“My understanding is it’s simple: don’t destroy the records. Keep them forever. In today’s time, it’s clear that we can do that,” asserted Rep. Ford. “The only people or organization that destroying the records would benefit would be the police.”
Last month, Spencer Ackerman, a reporter for The Guardian who exposed the Homan Square scandal, testified before the Cook County Commission revealing that more than 7,000 people had disappeared within the torture chamber between August 2004 and June 2015. Instead of formally arresting suspects at Homan Square, Chicago cops are accused of shackling suspects to the wall for hours without bathroom breaks while violating their constitutional rights by threatening and beating them without the presence of an attorney.
In a lawsuit filed in October, Deanda Wilson alleged that Chicago Police Sgt. Frank Ramaglia held a knife to his throat during an interrogation. After Wilson repeatedly asked for his lawyer and bathroom privileges, he was later forced to urinate on himself while officers ignored his pleas for help. Transported to Cook County jail and incarcerated for 15 months awaiting trial, Wilson and his co-defendants were found not guilty after Judge William O’Brien determined the state failed to meet its burden of proof.
On October 20, 2012, CPD officers detained Angel Perez at Homan Square to convince him to turn into a police informant. According to a lawsuit filed by Perez, officers Jorge Lopez and Edmund Zablocki anally raped him with a gun to coerce his cooperation.
In September 2011, Jose Martinez was allegedly cuffed to a bench for nine hours at Homan Square without food, water, or the use of a restroom before being booked at an actual police station. In August 2006, Estephanie Martinez had to relieve herself in a Homan Square interrogation room when a guard repeatedly refused to take her to the bathroom. On February 6, Calvin Coffey defecated on the floor of an interrogation room after guards refused his requests to go to the bathroom for over two hours. According to his lawsuit, Coffey was ordered to clean it up with his skull cap.
Although John Hubbard entered Homan Square on February 2, 2013, he never walked out of the secret facility. Hubbard was later pronounced dead inside an interrogation room of an apparent heroin overdose. Officers at Homan Square have also been accused of injecting suspects with heroin to force confessions.
On Monday, the leaders of the Chicago NAACP along with Rep. La Shawn Ford called for the Chicago Police Department to retain their misconduct records, as the police unions seek to destroy the documents. Attempting to gain access to police misconduct records dating back to 1969, Rep. Ford, journalist Jamie Kalven, and University of Chicago Law School Prof. Craig Futterman have been fighting to release the files to the public instead of burning them like a furtive stack of banished books.
Allowed to take a tour of Homan Square, Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin was informed that the facility was mainly used for undercover organized crime and narcotics work. Although he noted several cameras in the interrogation rooms, Commissioner Boykin did not observe any security cameras in the lockup facility. On Wednesday, Boykin and the Board of Commissioners will address a resolution calling for the Justice Department to investigate Homan Square because the Chicago Police Department cannot be trusted with investigating the allegations against its tainted department.
Earlier this month, the city of Chicago paid out $5.5 million to victims tortured by former Police Commander Jon Burge. Between 1972 and 1991, Burge and his men forced confessions out of more than 200 people by torturing them with suffocation, beatings, and genital electrocution. After costing the city over $100 million in legal fees and settlements, Burge continues to receive a $4,000 monthly pension from the city.
Last month, Chicago police officers were caught tampering with the Burger King surveillance videos that recorded the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Although Officer Jason Van Dyke accused McDonald of lunging at him with a knife, police dashcam video revealed the teenager had been walking away before Van Dyke repeatedly shot him. Van Dyke was charged with murder after a court ordered the release of the suppressed dashcam video.
Former Chicago homicide detective and Guantanamo Bay interrogator, Richard Zuley, faced multiple lawsuits alleging he coerced confessions, threatened suspects’ family members, planted evidence, and committed torture. After retiring from the department, Zuley was placed in charge of the interrogation of Guantanamo detainee, Mohammedou Ould Slahi. According to Slahi’s testimony, Zuley tortured him, subjected him to mock executions, and threatened to bring Slahi’s mother to Guantanamo to rape her.
Notorious for defending crooked cops, police unions cannot be trusted with the decision to incinerate the misconduct files of officers still wearing a badge and gun. To prevent further unjustified killings, cops must be held accountable for their actions. Especially when officers are allowed to operate in a torture chamber where unofficial detainees have their civil rights incessantly violated.
By: Andrew Emett