The long-awaited report about police torture in the Chicago police department has finally been released by Special Prosecutors Frank Egan and Robert Boyle. After more than four years and at a cost of over $6.2 million, the Special Prosecutors unveiled their findings at a press conference scheduled to coincide with the release of the nearly 300 page report. Unfortunately, it was at the press conference, and not in the Report itself, that the Special Prosecutors revealed some of what they really believe happened at Chicago's Area Two and Three Precincts under the command of Jon Burge. There is only one word that comes to mind when reading the report -- Milquetoast.
For example, the word "torture" is not mentioned in the report. Nor is the word "systemic." The Report focuses on only three cases in which Chicago police officers abused suspects, only one of which directly involved Jon Burge. In theses cases, there was enough evidence to indict the officers, but unfortunately, the statute of limitations, prevents them from doing so. At the press conference, Mr. Boyle told reporters that of 148 cases of alleged torture that were investigated, he believed that suspects made credible claims in at least half of them. Although the infamous black box, which was used by Burge and other to send electrical current into the ears and testicles of suspects, was never found, at least in the case of Andrew Wilson, prosecutors believed such a torture device may have been used. In most of the cases, however, police officers just beat, punched or hit suspects with telephone books. The failure of the Special Prosecutors to speak about these beliefs in the Report deprived the public of information needed to understand the scope of the reign of terror and most importantly, deprived the victims of some closure and satisfaction that their suffering was not in vain.
The refusal of the Special Prosecutors to describe in greater detail the systemic nature of the abuse is especially galling given their criticism of the Goldston Report, the independent report prepared in 1990 by Michael Goldston, one of the top investigators for the Police Department's Office of Professional Standards. In one of the only times that the City tried to shed light on the torture (the investigation was begun under Mayor Harold Washington), Goldston's report documented nearly 60 cases of torture, named Burge as the ringleader and listed the names of other officers who were "players." The Goldston Report should have blown the lid on the scandal but was suppressed for years (until a federal judge ordered it released). Instead of taking public officials like Mayor Daley, Police Chief Leroy Martin and others in the State's Attorneys office to task for not opening up a full investigation after the release of the Goldston Report, the Special Prosecutors simply accept these officials' criticisms of the report (even though many of the cases cited in the Report must have been among the 70 plus cases that the Special Prosecutors believed were credible).
The word "milquetoast" is especially appropriate to describe the way in which the Report criticizes the police officers and prosecutors who were alerted to the claim that Andrew Wilson was tortured and did nothing to investigate the allegations. All the Special Prosecutors can say about the decision of then State's Attorney Richard Daley (now Mayor) to delegate the matter to his First Assistant Richard Devine (now State's Attorney) is that they would have handled it differently. As for the failure of Mr. Devine and his head of Special Prosecutions, Frank DeBoni (now a judge), their actions did not "redound to the benefit" of the office. Curiously, the Special Prosecutors save their harshest words for Richard Brzeczek, who as police superintendent, is not without fault here. But Brzeczek is one of the few officials who did attempt to bring light to the torture by sending a letter to Daley asking for advice as to how to proceed in investigating the torture. Daley in turn delegated the matter to Devine who thought Bill Kunkle ( the prosecutor who tried Wilson and now a judge) would look into it and Kunkle claims he referred the matter to DeBoni. A classic case of passing the buck.
Will this be the last chapter in the torture scandal? I doubt it. Already there are renewed calls to get the United States Attorneys Office to bring indictments and efforts to get the United Nations Human Rights Commission to pressure U.S. Authorities to take action to address the the torture. In today's paper, lawyers for the claimants are strategizing about whether to name Mayor Daley as a defendant in some of the civil suits that are still being litigated as a result of the torture. Whether or not the report is the last chapter is besides the point, in failing to fully shed light on the full scope of Chicago's Abu Ghraib, the Special Prosecutors missed a golden opportunity to rewrite history -- a history that with few exceptions has been written by the power brokers and those defending the officers -- to more accurately reflect what happened to suspects in Chicago's Area Two and Area Three Precincts.