CAMPAIGN TO FREE INCARCERATED
SURVIVORS OF POLICE TORTURE (CFIST)
Chicago has a long history of torture, police violence, and cover-ups by police officers, rightly earning it the title "torture capital of the United States" (Flint Taylor). The murders of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in 1969 were notorious examples of brazen police brutality in Chicago. In 1968, Mayor Richard J. Daley ordered Chicago Police to shoot to maim and shoot to kill "looters" in the aftermath of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination.
Police torture has existed for decades, but it received renewed attention in the 1990s when the Chicago Reader released a series of articles exposing systemic patterns and practices of torture under police commander Jon Burge. The first of these articles, “House of Screams,” covered the case of Andrew Wilson, who in 1982 was so badly beaten and gruesomely tortured that the medical director at Cook County Jail Hospital was shocked and brought it to the immediate attention of the State's Attorney and CPD Superintendent. In 1989, Wilson sued the city of Chicago, but Burge and all the officers under his command were acquitted.
Jon Burge had become a Chicago police officer in 1970, after returning from serving in Vietnam. Beginning in 1972, Burge tortured Black and brown men until they confessed to crimes they did not commit, using torture tactics he was known to have perfected against prisoners of war during his time as a military police investigator in Vietnam. The high clearance rate he earned as a result meant that he went up the ranks quickly. In 1981, he began to serve as police commander. This is when he trained other officers to use the same disturbing torture tactics.
The officers under Burge’s command became known as the Midnight Crew. They went on to train others in practices of torture, perpetuating deep corruption across the city that included not only tortured confessions from suspects, but threats to their families, coercion of witnesses, and more. In our report, you can read the details of 407 cases of torture and wrongful conviction by CPD detectives. These patterns and practices both pre-dated and outlived Jon Burge, in the detectives that he trained, and in those who engaged his tactics without rising to his level of infamy. The false, tortured confessions these officers collected are still used to make and uphold convictions while the real killers go free. The police have never been interested in true justice. Their only goal is to humiliate, imprison and murder the Black and Latine people of Chicago.
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