Torture & sunlight.

While Chicagoans congratulate themselves on having charged Jon Burge with perjury some twenty years on (never mind that it was the Feds who acted after a long line of local DAs — beginning with the guy we've elected mayor six times and counting — failed to do so, or that John Conroy was insufficiently popular to keep his job in a city that's made the RedEye the fastest-growing newspaper in the country, according to Bill Adee at the Tribune), Tracy Siska at the Chicago Justice Project reminds us that the past, in Faulkner's words, isn't dead; it isn't even past:

Joseph Lopez, 18, was arrested on July 19th, 2000 without a warrant for the murder of 12-year-old Miguel DeLaRosa. He was held for 4 days and nights in an interrogation room with the lights on all the time, cuffed to the wall most of the time. At the end of the four days, Lopez falsely confessed to the murder; he was subsequently released weeks later when the real culprit was apprehended.


For all the bellowing about the fact that more should have been done twenty years ago to stop Burge, nothing is being done to stop the illegal and abusive tactics of today. Neither the Independent Police Review Authority nor the Chicago Police Board is equipped either financially or with the necessary political power to gain the access they would need track this abuse. With policy makers continuing to pay the same attention to this issue they have Burge over the last thirty years we are left with no options.

You should really read the whole thing.

Of particular note to advocates of transparency and open government are Siska's tireless efforts to use the Illinois FOIA to shed light on CPD oversight and disciplinary procedures, chronicled in detail at that link — he has been successful in obtaining City Council Committee on Police and Fire meeting transcripts (including transcripts of the committee's hearings on the Burge investigation) as well as Chicago Police Board hearing documents, and has done us the additional favor of posting these documents online for anyone's use. (In a city where FOIA requests are commonly ignored — illegally — without even the courtesy of a "no" response, and where even the most mundane requests are routinely denied through maximally-broad construal of the statutory exemptions, Siska's successes in obtaining these fairly sensitive records are nothing short of astonishing.)

October 26, 2008