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.
The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.
Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse include:
- 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 counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.
I found this article particularly fascinating, it was almost like the plot of a suspense-filled episode of Criminal Minds or NCIS. But aside from the thrill, there are very real issues at stake here. American citizens in Chicago may be denied their rights when arrested, unable to be reached, failed to have their Miranda rights read, or not given access to their attorneys. Not only that, this article describes a law enforcement environment in which police officers can circumnavigate the system for a period of time, for what we can only assume is to their own advantage. It would seem from this article that this Homan Square facility is “off the grid” as it were, as has been compared to CIA black site or facilities used for the war on terror.
When it comes to the persons arrested, it can be argued that they are not being treated in an ethical manner. There were several reports of arrestees being injured while they were being detained; one man was found injured and later dead in an interrogation room. Problem 1: police officers injuring people while they are in custody, possibly as a means to get information from them. These people have rights to be treated in a certain manner that protects them. Innocent until proven guilty? Then there is the issue of those people being taken to or transferred to Homan Square without being booked, making it next to impossible for family, friends, or attorneys to search the system to find them. Homan Square does not have a booking system, hence “off the grid”. This leads to a second problem in which the citizens become deprived of their constitutional rights to an attorney. Attorneys reported spending many hours trying to find their clients, and then being denied access to their clients by facility security.
Then there is the issue of the police department. Based on the comment of one former Chicago detective, there is no way such a facility is handled in such a way. “Transferring detainees through police custody to deny them access to legal counsel, would be “a career-ender”. To move just for the purpose of hiding them, I can’t see that happening,” he told the Guardian. Richard Brzeczek, Chicago’s police superintendent from 1980 to 1983, who also said he had no first-hand knowledge of abuses at Homan Square, said it was “never justified” to deny access to attorneys. However, according to certain arrested citizens, families, and attorneys, such unethical behavior exists.
In conclusion, this article struck me an unjust because it seems to violate many of the rights that Americans have deemed essential to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness for hundreds of years. Because of these convictions, we as citizens have collectively put laws in place that prevent such abuses of the justice system. We believe that these laws define the ethical practice and policy when a person is arrested, innocent or guilty. Granted, we have also allowed a military branch that has different practices similar to those described above. But this particular Chicago police department seems to be overstepping its bounds, at the expense of the citizens it is purposed with protecting and serving.