Report Details Torture by Chicago Police
NOAH ADAMS, host:
In Chicago a team of special prosecutors is substantiating claims of torture and abuse of prisoners by Chicago police officers. This would have been back in the 1970s and 80s but the prosecutors who released a report on the torture today, say the statute of limitations has run out, therefore the officers who committed the abuse cannot be charged. NPR's David Schaper is covering this story and joins us now. David tell us what you can about the allegations.
DAVID SCHAPER, reporting:
Well there have been a number of allegations, hundreds of allegations of brutality by Chicago police officers on suspects that they were interrogating -mostly for more serious crimes and murder investigations throughout the 1970s and throughout the 1980s. And most of them specifically dealt with one (Unintelligible) first detective, John Burge, who later became a commander of a south side unit of the Chicago Police Department, and detectives under his command. The special prosecutor was appointed four years ago to, to try to substantiate these claims that have been kicking around Chicago for, for years and years and years. And they have decided that if they could bring indictments, that they would, against Burge and some of his underlings, for at least three cases - and that there are probably a good seventy five to one hundred other cases that they believe abuse and torture took place, but they don't have enough evidence that they could bring a case.
ADAMS: Well what is, what is the next step? What's going to happen here?
SCHAPER: Well this was - this investigation by a special prosecutor was ordered by a chief judge of Cook County, four years ago, because of repeated claims of abuse and torture by some - some people who claim that they were convicted of crimes, based on confessions that they signed because they were abused and tortured into signing those confessions. And so there are a number of cases still working their way through the courts that could be impacted by this, because of these claims of innocence by people who have been sitting in jail for, in some cases, fifteen - twenty years.
There have been some who have already been exonerated, because of these, these allegations of abuse and torture. But beyond that the — because the statute of limitations on the specific acts which are crimes, they cannot bring any charges against the officers. And all of the officers involved are no longer on the Chicago Police Department. However, there is civil matters that could go on, lawsuits that could be filed by those who believe that they were tortured, and there could be high judgments. In some cases we've already seen some multi-million dollar judgments in favor of victims who claimed that they were tortured at the hands of Chicago police officers.
ADAMS: Any way to generalize what the response of those officers who have been named, has been?
SCHAPER: Many of those who have been named, and had been named in media reports and in other investigations prior to this one, have often taken the fifth when, when put on the stand and before grand juries. They've refused to talk to the media, and in most cases, there's just very little or no response. In court documents, many have — some of these cases that have wound up in the civil courts, they have denied the allegations. And because there has been such a code of silence within the Chicago Police Department, many of these cases end up being one person's word against another. In some of the most heinous cases, in the three in particular that special prosecutor mentions, there is such evidence of physical wounds and things, that, that overwhelmed the evidence and removed the, the denial, that some of the officers have given in the past.
ADAMS: NPR's David Schaper talking with us from Chicago. Thank you David.
SCHAPER: Thank you Noah.
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