Police Misconduct Archive

MJC Calls for Citizen Review Board to Police the CPD

City Council Delays Passage of Mayor's Police Oversight Ordinance after Attorneys, Advocates Testify that Critical Amendments Still Needed

Attorneys and advocates who have represented victims of police torture and abuse testified (pdf) before the Police and Fire Committee of the Chicago City Council on Monday. The group called Mayor Daley's new plan for OPS "a step forward" but said there are still problems with the ordinance that must be addressed to ensure true independence for the body that governs the Chicago Police Department."

Based on that testimony, the Chicago City Council delayed a vote on the Mayor's ordinance until July 19. The Chicago Police Department has a long history of failure to engage in self-policing, and needs to be monitored by an independent, objective civilian body, according to advocates.

MacArthur Justice Center Attorney Locke Bowman and other attorneys and advocates for police accountability are working to ensure that the ordinance creates a truly independent body to oversee the Chicago police.

Police misconduct in Chicago dates back to even before the systematic torture of African-American suspects by Jon Burge, yet most of the officers who engaged in the torture were never punished. That pattern continues in the Chicago Police Department (CPD) today and is exemplified by the Police response to the recent misconduct of officers whose abuse of power has only become public after the media exposed the wrongdoing. According to a recent University of Chicago study, actual discipline is imposed in less than one percent of the cases in which Police officers are accused of abusing citizens.

Updated - 06/11/2007


Daley's Police Oversight Plan Should Not Be Rushed, Say MacArthur Justice Center and Partners

MacArthur Justice Center, the Cook County Public Defender's Office and Citizens Alert are calling on the Chicago City Council (pdf) to reject Mayor Daley's current plan to restructure the Office of Professional Standards (OPS), saying the Mayor's proposal represents minor changes that will do little to deter misconduct by Chicago police officers and will continue to support "business as usual" at OPS.

"This is a very difficult and important process to create a truly meaningful and independent agency. It shouldn't be rushed through," said Locke Bowman, MJC legal director. "The city should not miss this historic opportunity to adequately reform a systemic abuse of power."

MJC and partners continue to advocate for an independent civilian-controlled agency to investigate police misconduct within the Chicago Police Department.

Updated - 05/08/2007


MacArthur Justice Center and Partners Call for Independent Board to Investigate Chicago Police Misconduct

MacArthur Justice Center, the Cook County Public Defender's Office and Citizens Alert called on Chicago's City Council to create an independent civilian-controlled agency to investigate police misconduct within the Chicago Police Department. The ordinance (pdf), which will be submitted to all Chicago Aldermen, was introduced as new research conducted by University of Chicago's Craig Futterman showed (pdf) that actual discipline is imposed in less than one percent of the cases in which Police officers are accused of abusing citizens.

"There is a history of horrific misconduct by Chicago police officers that the Department higher ups go to great lengths to cover up," said Locke Bowman, MJC legal director. "Officer Anthony Abbate is just the most recent example of flagrant misconduct in a long litany of offenses by Chicago police that date back to torture by Burge and beyond. We now know beyond a doubt that the Chicago police are not capable of policing themselves. An independent civilian agency must be established to play that critical role."

The proposed City Council ordinance drafted by the group would establish an Independent Civilian Review Agency to investigate allegations of abuse or coercion by Chicago police officers.

Police misconduct in Chicago dates back to the systematic torture of African-American suspects by Jon Burge, yet most of the officers who engaged in the torture were never punished. That pattern continues in CPD today and is exemplified by the Police response to the misconduct of Officer Abbate, recently caught on video.

Updated - 04/05/2007


Unfair Detention of Witnesses by Chicago Police

MJC Class Action Suit Against Illegal Lock-Ups Goes to Trial

An alleged Chicago Police Department policy of detaining witnesses in criminal cases against their will, sometimes for days, violates the constitution and should be banned, according to a class-action lawsuit currently on trial in U.S. District Court. The suit was prompted by the cases of Ramon Ayala and Kyle Davis, each of whom was subjected to the alleged policy. Former Chicago Police Chief of Detectives James Molloy was questioned concerning police practices with regard to detaining witnesses. In addition, witnesses who have been unlawfully detained in connection with criminal cases and police officers who have enforced the detention practice took the stand to testify about their experiences.

Updated - 10/01/2005


MacArthur Justice Center Files Class Action Lawsuit to Prevent Illegal Lock-Ups

The Chicago Police Department's practice of detaining witnesses in criminal cases against their will would be banned under a lawsuit brought by the MacArthur Justice Center (pdf).

The class action suit, brought on behalf of victims of the Police Department's detention policy, is pending in federal district court in Chicago. The suit charges that each year Police round up and detain dozens of Chicagoans believed to be witnesses in criminal cases. The witnesses are confined without their consent to interrogation rooms - sometimes for as many as 48 hours - without being suspected of any wrongdoing.

As noted in the suit, in a previous case First Defense Legal Aid v. City of Chicago, the federal trial court found that these interrogation rooms are often "windowless... lack toilet facilities or running water and are typically furnished only with a metal bench bolted to the wall." Much of what the court found was based on admissions by defendant Cline and another high-ranking member of the Police.

"It's shocking that the Chicago police lock up witnesses as a matter of policy. This practice has been going on for years and clearly violatesthe Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, which do not allow abuse of people during the investigation of a crime," said Locke Bowman, legal director of the MacArthur Justice Center.

Updated - 04/05/2005


MJC Lawsuit Says Chicago Police Locked Up Witnesses for Days

The Chicago Police Department has a policy of locking up and interrogating witnesses who are not charged or suspected of any criminal wrongdoing, according to a lawsuit filed (pdf) on September 18, 2003, in federal court by the MacArthur Justice Center, the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic and First Defense Legal Aid. The suit was filed on behalf of three individuals who were locked in a police interrogation room for questioning for as long as two full days, denied access to legal counsel and in some cases without food or use of a bathroom.

Updated - 09/18/2003


Area 2 Torture - Death Row Inmate Says Confession Was Result Of Torture

Nationally Prominent Activists Urge Hearing for Death Row Inmate Who Claims His Confession Was Coerced Through Torture

In 1998, a number of nationally known activists, attorneys, and death penalty opponents signed a brief (pdf) that the MacArthur Justice Center submitted to the Illinois Supreme Court in support of the appeal of death row prisoner Aaron Patterson. Patterson claims that a confession he purportedly gave to Chicago police detectives at the Area 2 Chicago police headquarters was coerced through torture, including suffocation with a plastic typewriter cover. The amicus brief argued it would be unconscionable to send Patterson to his death without a full inquiry into the torture claim-including considering evidence of similar claims of torture made by several other suspects who were interrogated at Area 2 by the same detectives.


Federal court enjoins Chicago Police and Cook County State's Attorney from barring contact between lawyers and witnesses at Chicago police stations

Ruling in a lawsuit (pdf) that the MacArthur Justice Center brought on behalf of First Defense Legal Aid (FDLA), federal District Judge Milton I. Shadur on September 9, 2002 ordered the Chicago police, several high ranking Police Department officials and the State's Attorney of Cook County to cease and desist from holding witnesses incommunicado in locked interrogation rooms at police stations and barring access between the witnesses and attorneys who come to the police station seeking to represent them. The Court's order requires the defendants to inform witnesses at police stations when an attorney appears at the station and to allow a consultation if the witness desires it.

In the litigation, the police had admitted that it is their practice to refuse attorney requests for access to persons the police are holding as "witnesses" on the ground that the witnesses are not in custody and are therefore not entitled to counsel under the Fifth Amendment, as interpreted in the Miranda decision. The Court held that witnesses - who, in theory, are free to leave police custody - have a First Amendment right to associate with counsel and that counsel have a correlative First Amendment right to associate with them. The Court's order contains extensive findings regarding the police procedures, which include locking the witnesses in small, windowless interrogation rooms, sometimes for over 24 hours, while refusing attorney access.

FDLA is a not-for-profit defender organization whose mission is to represent persons who have been arrested and are in the custody of the Chicago Police at police stationhouses. FDLA has responded to over 10,000 requests for assistance on behalf of persons in police custody

Update: The MacArthur Justice Center argued an appeal (pdf) in the FDLA case before a three-member panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Update: The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued an opinion (pdf) on February 19, 2003 reversing the District Court's injunction

In a Feb. 20, 2003, Chicago Sun-Times article, MacArthur Justice Center legal director Locke Bowman highlighted the larger policy issue still remaining. "The Chicago Police Department has an unconscionable practice of taking free Chicago citizens whom the police have no reason at all to suspect of committing a crime and locking them up in interrogation rooms for many hours, sometimes overnight, until they provide the police with information about a criminal investigation," Bowman said. "That practice is shameful and it has to stop."