Friday, June 16, 2006

Police brutality in Chicago

A woman who had been struggling with drugs, while held on a traffic warrant, died Monday in police custody after repeatedly asking for medical assistance and being told by police that she would not be treated. (Frank Main, "Woman who died in lockup asked for help: witness," Chicago Sun-Times, June 14, 2006.) I knew another woman, May Molina, who died in police custody in 2004 under similar circumstances.

This January, after police got rough with a gathering of mourners who overflowed onto Western Avenue, 36-year-old union engineer Brenda O'Connor was treated to handcuff torture by a Chicago Police sergeant - in front of her stepdaughter. I later followed up and took her down to Police Headquarters so that we could file a report to the Office of Professional Standards. Having seen this before, I have no illusion that there will be any action in response to Brenda's complaint, though it has been corroborated by several witnesses.

In fact, I personally was a victim of police brutality - when I tried to stop a police officer from framing a Middle Eastern man for an accident which he himself had caused.

Just this week, the Reader featured on its front page and Web site "The Police Torture Scandal: A Who's Who." For years the Reader has been following CPD's torture program and this article summarizes the activity and points back to the numerous articles they've published on the subject since 1990.

It's inconceivable to me how such things can happen so regularly in a place called "civilized."

On June 6 at St. Clement School, Lincoln Park Neighbors United for Peace held a forum on the torture at Guantanamo. We saw video footage of the suffering caused by our own troops, and authorized by our own top leaders. But you don't have to travel far to see cases of police dispensing "street justice" and callous disregard. It's right here in our city, every single day.

The son of the deceased woman said of her, "She taught me to treat everyone the same way - from the president to a bum - with respect. It doesn't look like they treated my mother with much respect." People in custody should be treated with no presumption of guilt. That is not the job of the Chicago Police Department, and it is nobody's job to do physical harm to a person or ignore their legitimate requests while in their care.

It's time for a culture change. They're putting video cameras on the streets in our troubled neighborhoods. I believe we need video cameras in the jails, and outside monitors and jail inspectors. And probably a lesson for some of our police officers on courtesy, ethics and limits to authority.


Blogger Mark said...

I read your political resume, and it appears you know a few things about Chicago election practices. Is large scale voter fraud still going on? How is it practised?

9:40 AM  
Blogger Peter Zelchenko said...

Well, the events in high-profile Florida and Ohio appear to happen here in municipal elections, and I've seen some apparent hanky-panky here for state representative races. The smaller the race, the more likely there will be some kind of abuse. I like to call Chicago election fraud "death by 1,000 cuts" because there doesn't appear to be any single contributing abuse but a number of them by assorted knuckleheads. Things like absentee fraud, supression, intimidation and threats, bulk challenges to immigrant and other at-risk populations, use or manipulation of public resources for a private campaign (usually the mayor's). Much of it is coming out now. Read my 2003 book if you're interested.

12:21 AM  

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