More transparency is coming for the Chicago Police Department, much to the dismay of their union, which has vociferously opposed making public the details of the department’s historically systemic abuse and brutality.
The chillingly named Chicago Torture Archive, which relies on previously secret documents detailing the torture practiced by officers under the command of former detective and commander Jon Burge from 1972-1991, is set to go live online in early 2017.
During that infamous 19-year period, upwards of 120 black men were brutally beaten to elicit false confessions and intimidate witnesses. The Atlantic provides one telling anecdote:
One of them was Philip Adkins, whose testimony about the hours that followed a 5 a.m. knock on his door is representative of some of the atrocities men like him endured at the hands of police officers. During the space of four to five hours, three detectives picked up, handcuffed, and detained Adkins without officially arresting him, reading him his Miranda rights, or allowing him to contact family or counsel.
The physical violence began when “without warning one of them slugged” him while he was handcuffed in the back of a patrol car. The three detectives then drove around parts of Chicago with him in the car, including during a stop at McDonald’s, and interrogated him about suspected criminal activity from the night before. Finding his answers unsatisfactory, one of the detectives started poking him “with great force” in the groin area with a flashlight. As they continued to drive around, two detectives took turns delivering blows to his private parts, knees, elbows, and ribs.
The Citizens Police Data Project details Chicago PD abuses dating back to 2001, but it is a volunteer-driven database built around materials procured through FOIA requests. When the Chicago Torture Archive goes live online next year, over 10,000 documents will be available for public scrutiny. The delay in launching is reportedly a result of a need to protect the privacy of the victims by redacting personal and identifying information such as social security numbers and addresses.
In 2015, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel agreed to a $5.5 million “Reparations for Burge Torture Victims” ordinance.