Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Chicago Police Apparently Has Their Own Guantanamo

Homan Square in Chicago. Kind of
a Chicago Police Guantanamo Bay. Probably
very unconstitutional. Will it be stopped?  
I've long been suspicious of heavy military equipment owned and operated by local police.

You know, tanks, missile launchers, all that kind of stuff that risks blurring the line between protecting and serving the public and turning areas to tense military zones.

But if a bombshell article in The Guardian is true, I had no idea it was this bad.

It turns out the city of Chicago has what amounts to its own Guantamano, a secret interrogation compound called Homan Square, which the Guardian called the "domestic equivalent of a CIA black box."

That means family or attorneys could not find people who might have been in there, people spent days inside shackled, sometimes beaten, and almost always denied basic Constitutional rights.

The horrifying Guardian article details the following:

"Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
Beating by police resulting in head wounds
Shackling for prolonged periods
Denying attorneys access to the "secure" facility
Holding people without legal cousel for between 12 and 24 hours including people as young as 15"

The Guardian said at least one person was found unresponsive in Homan Square and later died.

Not surprisingly, the Guardian said Chicago Police Department officials would not respond to any of the newspaper's questions.

It appears Homan Square has been operating since the late 1990s, but it's been so secretive that there's been little public attention. People who were brought or imprisoned there tend not to talk about. Apparently, it's been made known that discussing it could make Chicago Police act rather unpleasantly toward people who open their mouths.

Many of those brought there are people arrested at protests. I guess out of concern for terrorism.

But many people who are unconstitutionally shelved into Homan Square are just rank and file drug dealers and similar accused criminals. Why not just book them like you normally do when they are arrested?

More sane police officials seem to be quite appalled by Homan Square. It's true police often have an office or building somewhere in which most people don't know what's going on. It's usually a quiet little getaway where police can talk with informants without blowing anybody's cover

Hey, you gotta do things like that in police work, so that's cool.

But Homan Square is different: Says the Guardian:

"But a retired Washington DC homicide detective, James Trainum, could not think of another circumstance nationwide where police held people incommunicado for extended periods.

'I've never known any kind of organized, secret place where they go and just hold somebody before booking for hours and hours and hours. That scares the hell out of me that even exists or might exist,' said Trainum, who now studies national policing issues, to include interrogations, for the Innocence Project and the Constitution Project."

Trainum should be scared on two levels. One, as he pointed out, that this civil liberties hellhouse in Chicago exists, as he points out. He should also be scared that other police departments have their own versions of Homan Square, and we don't even know about it.

Of course, the next important question is who in Chicago knew about this. How high up the chain of command does this go?

But the Guardian article does suggest quite a little coverup. This place seems to violate the official rules of the Chicago Police Department, though I'm sure people follow a lot of looser unofficial rules, too.

The Guardian quotes a former Chicago detective and current private investigator names Bill Dorsch:

"Transferring detainees through police custody to deny them access to legal counsel, would be a 'career ender,' Dorsch said. 'To move just for the purpose of hiding them, I can't see that happening.'"

Then why haven't any cops, detectives or brass had their careers ended by the shenanagans at Homan Square?

I know, I know, focusing on this Guardian piece makes me look like I think all police agencies are a corrupt criminal racket. Obviously, that's not the case. I still have faith in most police departments.

I also know that Chicago has a rich and sordid history of corruption, and Homan Square seems to be just part of that, um, tradition.

But given the fact that this exists, and for all I know exists elsewhere, is disconcerting to say the least.

We keep getting a steady drumbeat of cases concerning police brutality, overreactions and such in the news, and that seems to be unrelenting. Like the case I read about today of a sheriff dragging a mentally incompetent woman by the feet through a Florida courthouse. 

Some of the police unions think police officers and departments can do no wrong. However, every organization has bad apples, and I worry police have more than their share. So why not weed out the bad ones.

Meanwhile, there are some people out there who think all police are awful. That risks encouraging a few wingnut wackos to go off and shoot some innocent cop. That's already happened, of course.

I'll repeat what I've said in the recent past: Maybe it's time for police departments to recognize that when people criticize some of their tactics, that doesn't mean we are anti-police. It can't hurt to at least listen to the critics. If the argument is bullshit, then fine.

But some critics might be exactly right about their police criticism. Really. It's time for reform.

If the Guardian's reporting is correct, time to disband the place One Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba is quite enough. We don't need more in the mainland United States.

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