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The [Wednesday] Papers

"For nearly two decades, when Chicago's police brought people under arrest to their detentions and interrogations warehouse, not even the vast majority of the police force knew where they were, according to an internal memo acquired by the Guardian," the Guardian reports.

Right: Like a black site.

"Homan Square, a warehouse complex headquartering narcotics, vice and intelligence units for the Chicago police, has also served as a secretive facility for detaining and interrogating thousands of people without providing access to attorneys and with little way for their loved ones to find them. Records documenting the presence of someone at Homan Square, especially while they are there, have existed largely outside Chicago police's electronic records system.

"Now, documents and evidence from senior officers have for the first time disclosed detailed official accounts of how police based at the unit were able to operate - and how it was almost impossible to tell who was being held inside."

Those would be the "disappeared."

"Depositions of senior officers, memorandums for the current police chief and other internal police records portray Chicago police procedures and record-keeping that obscured visibility into Homan Square's apparatus of detentions, both to the public and even to police themselves.

"The records and supporting testimony portray a complicated system of documentation that helps explain how Chicago police, particularly from the bureau of organized crime, could use their headquarters for incommunicado detentions and interrogations without attracting significant public notice.

"Interrogations are the purpose of the incommunicado detentions, the police depositions indicate. In practice, police leverage an arrestee's inability to notify relatives or lawyers about their whereabouts - a perilous position, from a civil rights perspective - to generate information about guns or drugs on Chicago's streets."

Exactly as some of us have been saying.


The depositions are key to this latest installment of the Guardian's series - the third piece this week out of about two-dozen in all. The CPD continues to refuse to comment - and the local media is making it easier by not asking questions at all - but the Guardian was able to put police officials under oath as part of their lawsuit against the department. So now we have some semblance of official confirmation.

And the Guardian's reporting has made a difference, just as local attorneys and activists have also been saying, at least to those few of us paying attention:

Over a year into the Guardian's ongoing exposé of what happened inside Homan Square, it appears that police have recently changed their logging procedures there.

"Prior to 2016, the only electronic record that could determine with any certainty that an individual was at the Homan Square facility is via the Arrestee Movement records in the Automated Arrest Application," Randolph Nichols, a senior officer in the Chicago police research department, wrote to acting superintendent John J. Escalante in an 11 March memo about the Guardian's freedom of information lawsuit into Homan Square.

In a possible indication of changes to the logging system, Nichols told the Guardian in a September deposition that the police "actually just created a unit the other day for Homan Square arrest processing."

Still skeptical?

"Asked how a member of the public can find anyone held at Homan Square while police hold them there, a senior police official said in sworn deposition: 'I don't know that you can contemporaneously.'"

That's a black site, folks! People who often will never be charged with a crime are disappeared into it for interrogation. They rarely have access to counsel and they cannot contact friends or family.

Now, the police official who said that also said that a person in a regular ol' station house would also be unable to locate. That's a problem - but at a regular ol' station house, chances are much higher that an arrestee has been logged in (and has access to a phone). And anyone can walk into a station house and ask about a detainee at the front desk. Not so at Homan. You simply cannot get in there.

"Police contend that the Guardian's coverage of Homan Square overemphasizes the secrecy surrounding the warehouse's detentions and interrogations practices. But in court, they also concede the secrecy, and argue for its necessity, on the grounds that a normal police station, vastly more open to the public, cannot accommodate undercover officers."


There's nothing wrong with having a facility - or multiple facilities - where undercover officers can do their work and cooperative actors (or those police hope will become cooperative) can meet without the sort of notice one might get at a regular district station. But that doesn't mean a place should exist to hold arrestees taken off the street by masked officers in the middle of the night who don't know where they are, don't have access to a lawyer and don't have access to family and friends. And in a facility like that, abuses both physical and psychological are likely to occur.

"The impact is that the arrest and interrogation of more than 7,000 people was able to happen without a public notification of their whereabouts."


Some of what one police official, Lt. William Kilroy, said in his deposition is in conflict with what the Guardian has reported. For example:

"Kilroy estimated that there have been 'six or seven attorneys who have come to Homan Square over the past, I don't know, five, 10 years. It's been that infrequent.' Chicago police have disclosed 86 attorney visits over the past decade - nine of which occurred after the Guardian's reporting on the warehouse began - and say, through their lawyers, that the tally is comprehensive. At least two arrestees who the disclosures say received lawyers have denied it to the Guardian.

"Lawyers interviewed by the Guardian have said they have been turned away from Homan Square when they came seeking their clients. Last year, attorney Cliff Nellis said that when he arrived at Homan Square seeking a client in 2014, police told him: 'This isn't a police station, we don't hold people here.' Nellis and other attorneys say that frequently, after police turn them away at Homan Square, their clients materialize hours later at the nearby 11th district police station."


For what it's worth, Kilroy has had three complaints lodged against him since 2010 - including at least one emanating from Homan.


And then, there's this bit of weirdness:

"While most arrests concern guns and drugs, consistent with the narcotics, anti-gang and vice units operating out of the warehouse, others deal with less urgent crime priorities.

"According to police documents, at least 11 people observed by investigators for the Recording Industry Association of America selling bootleg CDs and DVDs (including Jay Z albums and Marvel's Iron Man movie) were 'taken to Homan Square for processing.' A woman was 'transported to Homan Square for processing' after police observing a fencing location for stolen goods found her with '2 cans of Tasters Choice decaffeinated coffee with Walgreens anti-theft stickers.'"

I don't know either.


Previously in Homan Square:

* The [Monday] Papers: Suddenly, the CPD is a fine upstanding trustworthy institution.

* The Beachwood Radio Hour #46: Explaining Chicago's Black Site.

* The [Wednesday] Papers: Another day, another Guardian story.

* The [Thursday] Papers: John Conroy vs. the Chicago media. Again.

* The Beachwood Radio Hour #47: What Chicagoans Aren't Being Told.

* The Beachwood Radio Hour #48: Carol Marin's Blinders & What Tom Durkin Really Said.

* The [Monday] Papers: Homan Squared.

* Chicago Politicians Push DOJ To investigate 'CIA Or Gestapo Tactics' At Secret Police Site.

* Chicago's Homan Square: Torture By Any Other Name . . .

* Amnesty International Calls For Federal Investigation Of Homan Square.

* The [Wednesday] Papers: Public Hearings Ignored By Chicago Media.

* The [Monday] Papers: Records Document Physical Abuse At Homan.

* The [Tuesday] Papers: A Guardian transparency lawsuit has revealed the second person known to have died in police custody at Homan Square. And the discrepancies in the reports are stark.


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Posted on April 13, 2016

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