Attorneys Affirm Systemic Abuse by Chicago Police

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

The Guardian published a February 2015 report documenting a secret Chicago Police Department facility where officers denied detainees’ rights and subjected them to abusive interrogation methods and other practices. The prisoners at the facility known as Homan Square were physically abused, denied their rights to attorneys, and handcuffed to benches “for up to 24 hours without any official record of their detention” (Democracy Now). Detainees were held incommunicado, and attorneys were denied access to the facility and records. However, when Chicago lawyers became more familiar with the story, they stated “such problems have been a widespread issue with the Chicago Police Department for decades, not one particular to Homan Square” (Chicago Tribune).

In fact, First Defense Legal Aid, which represents low-income clients, sued the city in the early 2000s for holding witnesses without access to representation, but police facilities have yet to acknowledge the injunction ordered by U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur. When confronted about the more recent allegations, police spokesman Marty Maloney denied any claims of corruption in the department, stating “CPD abides by all laws, rules and guidelines pertaining to any interviews of suspects or witnesses … If lawyers have a client detained at Homan Square, just like any other facility, they are allowed to speak to and visit them” (Chicago Tribune). According to defense attorneys, Maloney’s statement is nonsensical in light of information that arose from detainee’s interviews along with CPD’s history. Through a series of court rulings and policy decisions, officers are allowed 48 hours “before presenting the suspect to a judge, either on charges or request to hold the suspect longer,” but the department interprets this rule selectively, with some officers, for example, delaying “the start of that 48-hour clock by not acknowledging someone is in custody.”

This indisputable disregard for both the Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the Bill of Rights strips anyone of their legal liberties and can lead to our nation’s police departments becoming more arbitrary and unlawful.

On March 1st of 2015, ABC covered the reports of Homan Square, with an emphasis focusing on the “fact sheets” sent to ABC by the CPD, asserting that claims of abuse and stripped rights were based on false information. The ABC report went on to say “media members have been invited on tours on a regular basis,” suggesting that the facility is accessible. Like many corporate US news outlets, ABC failed to mention prior reports of the ongoing corruption throughout the CPD, nor did they mention any first-hand reports from detainees about physical abuse, threats, and unconstitutional practices.


Spencer Ackerman, “The Disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden ‘black site’,” The Guardian, Tuesday February 24, 2015,

Jeremy Gorner and David Heinzmann, “Lawyers Wary of Claim about Chicago Police ‘black Site,’ Say Abuse Citywide,” Chicago Tribune, February 28, 2015,

“A Black Site in Chicago? Police Accused of Running Secret Compound for Detentions & Interrogations,” Democracy Now!, February 26, 2015,

Student Researcher: Abbi Meyers-Orr (Burlington College)

Faculty Evaluator: Rob Williams (Burlington College)