Chicago police dispute they operate CIA-style 'black site'

ABC7 I-Team Investigation

Chuck Goudie Image
Wednesday, February 25, 2015

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago police officials on Tuesday disputed a British newspaper investigation that reported the city operates an "off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or lawyers while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site."

The story, reported by the Guardian, focuses on a west side Chicago police warehouse known as Homan Square, that "has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights" reported the Guardian.

Chicago police admit Homan Square is "a facility owned and used by the Chicago Police Department" and spokesman Martin Maloney tells the ABC7 I-Team that it is "considered sensitive because many officers who operate there are often involved in undercover assignments, and advertising their location could put their lives at risk." But they deny the kinds of conduct that is described in the sensational Guardian report.

Police here say the Bureau of Organized Crime, SWAT Unit Evidence Technicians, and the CPD ballistics lab operate from the west side facility and because of that the building is considered a secure site. The I-Team has also reported that CPD houses SWAT vehicles, military-style armored trucks and tear gas units-a report cited by the Guardian in its coverage. "Cook County, home of Chicago, has received some 1,700 pieces of military equipment from a much-criticized Pentagon program transferring military gear to local police. It includes a Humvee, according to a local ABC News report."

However, the UK newspaper investigation stated that what went on at Homan Square was anything but routine. The Guardian calls it "Chicago police abuse." The report stated that arrestees were beaten in the head, shackled for long periods of time, denied access to attorneys for up to 24 hours and that suspects were kept out of official police records. "At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square 'interview room' and later pronounced dead" according to the Guardian.

Chicago Police Dept. officials late Tuesday said their department "abides by all laws, rules and guidelines pertaining to any interviews of suspects or witnesses, at Homan Square or any other CPD facility. If lawyers have a client detained at Homan Square, just like any other facility, they are allowed to speak to and visit them."

As for the allegation that suspects are held without any record of the detention, "There are always records of anyone who is arrested by CPD, and this is not any different at Homan Square" says CPD's Maloney.

The Guardian report paints Homan Square as a covert, "off-the-books" facility and suggests it is purposely hidden from the general public. While authorities acknowledge that it is a sensitive and secure location because of the units housed there, they contend that it is not a "domestic black site" as the UK newspaper concludes. "It also houses CPD's Evidence Recovered Property Section, where the public is able to claim inventoried property" says department spokesman Maloney.