Friday, February 27, 2015

Homan Square - Chicago PD 'Black Site' - CPD Or CIA?

Gated entrance of Chicago PD's Homan Square facility
Late last night I heard a pretty disturbing story about the Chicago Police Department on the Democracy Now show on public radio as I was driving home from Princeton after having dinner with a friend.

One that left me feeling chilled inside the heated confines of my SUV on a cold night in February.

Two days ago the British newspaper The Guardian reported that the Chicago PD have been operating a secret interrogation facility on the city's west side inside a large building that used to be a Sears & Roebuck warehouse.

Aside from some small blue and white signs on the gate outside, there's really nothing to distinguish the Homan Square facility as a police station. Statements from the Chicago Police Department insist the building serves as both an 'Evidence and Recovered Property' location and a site where SWAT teams, organized crime task force members, and other shadowy police investigation units operate out of.

But according to multiple reports from defense attorneys and individuals who've been held there, at least part of the facility is used to interrogate suspects for periods that can last anywhere from 12 and 24 hours without access to lawyers, Miranda rights, telephones or even basic police procedures that officially log and keep track of when a person is detained and where he or she is at any given time.

Homan Square detainee Brian Church 
During the Democracy Now program, I heard an audio clip of an interview with Brian Jacob Church (pictured left), identified as one of the "NATO Three", three individuals arrested for allegedly plotting to use Molotov cocktails in protest of the 2012 NATO summit.

Church said Chicago police officers brought him to Homan Square and kept him shackled to a bench for 17 hours - his ankles were chained together with cuffs and his wrist was kept handcuffed to a metal bar on the bench behind him.

When he asked to use a phone to contact his lawyers, police told him he would have no phone access until he told them what they wanted to know.

According to The Guardian, article, Church claims that: 

“Homan Square is definitely an unusual place,” Church told the Guardian on Friday. “It brings to mind the interrogation facilities they use in the Middle East. The CIA calls them black sites. It’s a domestic black site. When you go in, no one knows what’s happened to you.”
What allegedly has happened inside Homan Square includes unauthorized interrogations, beatings and at least one known death of a detainee under mysterious circumstances.

The Chicago Tribune reported detainee John Hubbard was found unconscious in an interrogation room; the medical examiner ruled he'd died of a heroin overdose. 

First Defense Legal Aid attorney Eliza Solowiej says one of her clients was taken away from a police station and brought to Homan Square for several hours; she later found him at a hospital with head injuries he suffered at the hands of CPD officers at Homan Square.

Minors are taken there as well.

The Guardian also reports attorney Julia Bartmes went to Homan Square demanding to see a fifteen year-old client who'd been in the facility for hours; police refused to grant her access and the juvenile was later dropped off at his home by police after almost 13 hours in custody being interrogated without a parent, legal guardian or his attorney present - he was never charged.
Did the CPD take a page from the CIA playbook to conduct secret interrogations outside the purview of legal oversight?

The story is just breaking, so there's a lot we don't know about Homan Square, but we do know the vast majority of suspects taken there are young men of color; people who already suffer disproportionately from the use of excessive force at the hands of police.

The legal, ethical and moral implications of the CPD intentionally creating a police facility where Constitutional protections do not apply is disturbing on a number of levels; and it's not only a huge setback to building trust between Chicago police and the poor urban communities they serve - it's an affront to the rule of law in America and another blatant example of unchecked police authority.

'Domestic Black Sites'? And our politicians have the nerve to call out Russia and China for domestic human rights abuses? 

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