In an extensive report, The Guardian has released an article stating that the Chicago Police Department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, reminiscent of a domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.
This type of facility is often thought of in situations where the U.S. military is interrogating suspected criminals in overseas locations. However, the characterless warehouse called Homan Square is located within U.S. borders. Located in Chicago’s west side, it is said to house military-style vehicles and even a cage.
It has been suggested that the facility focuses mainly on poor, black and brown American citizens. It is described as a place where no one can be found, not by their family or even their attorney.
According to those familiar with the facility who spoke to The Guardian, alleged police practices at Homan Square include:
- Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
- Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
- Shackling for prolonged periods.
- Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
- Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.
It has been reported that at least one individual was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.
According to The Guardian, Brian Jacob Church, a protester known as one of the “Nato Three,” was held and questioned at Homan Square in 2012 following a police raid. Officers detained Church for most of the day, denying him access to an attorney. Afterwards, they sent him to a nearby police station to be booked and charged.
“Homan Square is definitely an unusual place,” Church said. “It brings to mind the interrogation facilities they use in the Middle East. The CIA calls them black sites. It’s a domestic black site. When you go in, no one knows what’s happened to you.”
The compound is the latest example of Chicago police practices that reverberate the highly criticized detention abuses of the U.S. war on terrorism.
“It’s sort of an open secret among attorneys that regularly make police station visits, this place, if you can’t find a client in the system, odds are they’re there,” said Chicago lawyer Julia Bartmes.
The Chicago police department did not respond to The Guardian’s questions about Homan Square. But after the story was published, the department provided a statement insisting that there is no illegal activity taking place at what it called the “sensitive” location, home to undercover units.
“CPD [Chicago police 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. It also houses CPD’s Evidence Recovered Property Section, where the public is able to claim inventoried property,” the statement said, something numerous attorneys and one Homan Square arrestee have denied. “There are always records of anyone who is arrested by CPD, and this is not any different at Homan Square.”
Tracy Siska, a criminologist and civil-rights activist with the Chicago Justice Project, said that Homan Square is evidence of the lines blurring between domestic law enforcement and overseas military operations.
“The real danger in allowing practices like Guantánamo or Abu Ghraib is the fact that they always creep into other aspects,” Siska said. “They creep into domestic law enforcement, either with weaponry like with the militarization of police, or interrogation practices. That’s how we ended up with a black site in Chicago.”