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The [Thursday] Papers

Anyone who didn't already know that former Chicago police commander Jon Burge & Co. brutally tortured suspects - think electrical shocks to the genitals - hasn't been paying attention. In that sense, the long-awaited release of the $7 million, four-years-in-the-making Burge report on Wednesday was a let-down.

I've only just begun to plow through the 292-page report, but judging by today's media accounts, the examination into police brutality by court-appointed special state's attorney's Edward Egan and Robert Boyle is heavy on a narrow reading of the facts of more than a hundred cases in question, but light on any explanation of how this could go on unimpeded for so many years with so few found responsible.

The report lays most of the blame, outside of Burge, of course, on former police superintendent Richard Brzeczek. And Brzeczek indeed ought to shoulder his share, although he wasn't the only chief to lead the department in the years in which torture was not-so-secretly being carried out at Areas 2 and 3. And as Brzeczek pointed out on Chicago Tonight last night, the Egan and Boyle have very little to say about the layers of supervisors between he and Burge.

The truth is that the city's criminal justice institutions - remember, this is a town where justice has historically been for sale - and leadership structure are broadly to blame. The culture of the Chicago police department didn't much care if officers kicked the shit out of poor black men - or chained them to radiators during questioning - in the course of going about their business. And neither, it is clear, did the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, nor a healthy share of the (white) public.

Just as a culture of corruption doesn't exist in City Hall without, at minimum, the tacit approval of its leader, the culture of brutality don't exist in police departments without the tacit approval of police chiefs, prosecutors, city councils, and mayors. Or the press.

In this case, however, one person is in a unique position to claim responsibility: Richard M. Daley.

After all, he was both Cook County State's Attorney when torture allegations first arose - and was notified of them in a letter from Brzeczek - and then he became mayor while the city defended itself against those very allegations.

And yet, the special prosecutors behind the Burge report seem to have given Daley the greatest deference possible in their findings. They don't clear Daley - and if the evidence supported that, so be it - but instead politely let him squirm off the hook.

As Brzeczek said Wednesday, "Does Daley ever wear the jacket for anything?"

Daley's leadership as state's attorney and mayor isn't questioned. Instead, at issue is a letter Brzeczek sent to Daley about brutality allegations that arose out of the prosecution of Andrew Wilson.

"Daley, the Cook County state's attorney at the time, did not respond to Brzeczek's letter. Yet he was unscathed in the special prosecutors' report issued Wednesday," the Sun-Times says. "Instead, the report said Brzeczek should have pressed for an answer from Daley."

Fair enough. Brzeczek's turn as the victimized scapegoat is a bit much; he was the police chief, after all, and sending a letter could have been as much an ass-covering move as a call to action. He could have picked up the phone, for example. Or called the feds.

Nonetheless, Daley's inaction and downright lack of interest are inexcusable.

"There was not a context at the time of, 'Gee, there had been 50 charges or 50 claims against this particular officer so there better be a heads-up," the report says.

But their questioning of Daley, as far as we can tell, seems awfully weak. All Egan and Boyle can bring themselves to write of his version of events is, "We accept his explanation, but would not do it the same way he did."

What was Daley's explanation? We don't really know. As the Defender reports, "Daley was not subpoenaed, but special prosecutors took court-recorded statements from the mayor under oath. Daley's statement - alone among those interviewed, according to one TV station - is not in the report.

"We didn't deem it would have made any difference," Boyle said.

Right. No one would have wanted to see Daley's statements anyway.

We do know this much, according to the Sun-Times: "Brzeczek forwarded the letter to Daley, saying he would wait for instructions on how to proceed so as not to jeopardize the murder case against Wilson.

"Daley and [first assistant and now Cook County State's Attorney Richard] Devine were new to their jobs. They trusted [William] Kunkle - the man who prosecuted John Wayne Gacy and the main prosecutor on Wilson's case - to handle the investigation, Daley and Devine told special prosecutors."

That's right. Daley and Devine "trusted" prosecutor to investigate his own prosecution.

It gets better. According to the Defender, "Kunkle, who represented Burge in two civil rights trials and his case against the city for his 1991 firing, was not available for comment, his staff said Wednesday."

As is his practice when facing questions from the media he doesn't want to answer, Daley also suffered convenient memory lapses when questioned by the Boyle and Egan. But again, a transcript is not available.

"That's nice. I mean, it's nice for the mayor," John Kass writes, in "A Tortuous Path To Not Blaming Daley," which aptly summarizes the mayor's 17 years in office.

And how did Kunkle proceed?

"Kunkle handed it off to prosecutor Frank DeBoni, the report says," according to the Sun-Times.

"DeBoni told special prosecutors that Kunkle or someone else had told him that Wilson's lawyer would be calling him if Wilson wanted to pursue charges against the officers."

In other words, neither Kunkle nor DeBoni did anything.

And guess what? Kunkle and DeBoni are now Cook County judges.

Kunkle, however, acted more like a hostile witness than a judge in his interaction with the special prosecutors.

"During their interview with Kunkle, he did not recall much and could not offer explanations for his ever-changing reasons for [Andrew] Wilson's burns. He tried to convince Egan and Boyle that the officers in the squadrol transporting Wilson beat him.

"'In four separate hearings, Judge Kunkle took four separate positions - no explanation; no burns; self-inflicted burns; and last, self-inflicted burns or alternatively, burns caused by the wagon men,' the report states. 'When we questioned Judge Kunkle, we sought some explanation of the seeming inconsistencies in the positions he had taken. He invoked the attorney-client privilege. Our hopes that Judge Kunkle . . . would shed some light on the question were dashed.'

"Kunkle is just one of many prosecutors mentioned in the report who have gone on to become judges, appellate justices, even attorneys with the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C."

And one went on to become mayor.

Daley Denial
"A spokeswoman for Mr. Daley said the mayor was in San Francisco and would not comment on the report until later this week, if at all," The New York Times reports.

If at all.

Daley Darts
"Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) called Daley's failure to launch an investigation of Burge during the 1980s a 'potential bombshell' that could 'turn into a lightning rod' in the black community if the mayor runs for re-election in February," the Sun-Times reports.

"'His inaction could galvanize large numbers of people in the African-American community against him - even more so than the corruption' that triggered the conviction of Daley's former patronage chief and three others, Brookins said.

"'A lot of people think corruption is business as usual. They kind of understand that connected people got jobs. African Americans . . . even benefitted from it. Burge and the other people at Area 2 were torturing African Americans. This makes [Daley's] race much tougher if he decides to run for re-election. . . . It makes it tougher for African-American aldermen who have supported him in the past to come out strongly for him with these types of allegations out there.'"

Ald. Fredrenna Lyle tells the Sun-Times that black voters are angry, while U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. says that Daley "should be held accountable, if not by law, then certainly politically.

"'If people knew then what we know now, Daley would never have been elected mayor in the first place,' Jackson said. 'He must now give a full explanation of his actions as state's attorney. . . . There needs to be an investigation to determine whether or not the process itself that delayed these revelations were deliberate in order to allow the statute of limitations to expire.'"

Boring Brutality
Eric Zorn rightfully takes Egan and Boyle to task for dulling up their findings. "[Boyle] did not use the word 'torture' until the Q&A period following extended introductory remarks, when WLS-Ch. 7 reporter Charles Thomas goaded him into it," Zorn reports.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Scapegoats welcome.


Posted on July 20, 2006

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