Chicago Police Officers Tortured 118 African Americans

By Jay Stone

Chicago Police Commander John Burge and Author Jay Stone

Chicago Police Officers Tortured 118 African Americans

African Americans Suffered 9 Additional Years of Torture Because Democratic States Attorney Failed to Act

Hi, my name is Jay Stone. My father Bernard L. Stone was an alderman for 38 years Vice Mayor of Chicago for 10 years, and democratic ward committeeman for 12 years.

More than 100 African Americans were tortured by a Chicago Police Department Unit that was run by Commander Jon Burge. Commander Burge and his unit’s police misconduct is the worst police abuse scandal since the 1960s. For 20 years, police officers systematically tortured African Americans into false confessions that led to African Americans spending a combined 926 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.

Jon Burge was a detective commander on the South Side of Chicago. Burge’s unit was assigned mainly to African American neighborhoods.

To obtain confessions, Burge and his crew used several methods of torture until African American admitted to crimes regardless of whether they were guilty.

Methods of Police Torture

Beatings

Suffocation

Burning

Cattle Prods for Electrical Shocks

Guns and Shotguns Placed in Suspects Mouths

Psychological Torture

I cannot do justice to the horrific torture African Americans suffered at the hands of Burge and his subordinates. For this reason, Click here and scroll down to the video testimony of Darrell Cannon. Mr. Cannon graphically details how he was tortured into confessing to a crime he did not commit. Mr. Cannon spent 21 years in jail before he was exonerated and released from prison.

Click here is a list of over 100 African Americans whom Jon Burge and his subordinates tortured in the name of justice.

The Better Government Association and Northwestern University, determined that taxpayers spent $214 million for wrongful convictions. According to their study if we add together the number of years these wrongfully convicted men spent in prison, they will have lost a combined 926 years. While 85 innocent people languished in prison, the real criminals committed 14 murders, 11 sexual assaults, 10 kidnappings and at least 59 other felonies.

In December 2007, CIA director Michael Hayden stated that the CIA had about 100 prisoners. Hayden said the CIA used enhanced interrogation techniques on about 30 of the 100 prisoners.

Burge and his crew tortured over 100 African Americans. Chicago Police Commander Burge and his brutes tortured more than three times more Black Americans than the CIA tortured suspected foreign terrorists after 911.

A thorough review of the CIA’s post 911 torture concluded that the CIA’s torture was a resounding failure since interrogators mostly obtained false information. As with the CIA, Burge and his men’s torture did not make African American communities safer. Instead Burge and his crew’s torture obtained untrue information to falsely imprison African Americans for a combined 926 years.

Democratic State Attorney Ignored and Encouraged Commander Burge’s Torture of African Americans

Jon Burge received six promotions between 1972 and 1988. In fact, Burge was rewarded with promotions because his torture obtained false confessions and false convictions of African Americans. Burge’s false confessions and convictions made it appear Burge was doing excellent police work when in fact he was the person who was committing crimes.

PositionYear
Patrol Officer1970
Detective1972
Sergeant1977
Lieutenant1981
Commander (Violent Crimes)1981
Commander (Bomb and Arson)1986
Detective Commander1988

The Chicago Police Department is all about politics. The police Superintendent is the highest-ranking officer who is in charge of all 14,000 Chicago Police Department employees. The superintendent serves at the pleasure of Chicago’s mayor. Since 1931 the superintendent of police has served a democratic mayor. The mayor is ultimately in charge of the Chicago Police Department’s policies and practices because the superintendent is subordinate to the mayor.

Chicago police officers must have political clout or a political sponsor to move up the ranks. Chicago cops’ political clout comes from aldermen, state reps, state senators, county commissioners or some other elected official. Given Burge’s meteoric rise through the police ranks, Burge had political clout who supported each and every one of his promotions. The political clout who sponsored Burge’s promotions still remains a mystery.

Democrat Richard M. Daley’s political career benefitted the most from Burge’s torture. Before becoming mayor of Chicago, Daley served as Cook County State’s Attorney from 1980 to 1989. Daley and the people who worked for him were responsible for prosecuting the African Americans whom Burge tortured. Daley’s State’s Attorney’s office convicted the majority of the 85 people who were falsely imprisoned.

While Daley was the States Attorney in 1989, he was elected Chicago’s mayor as the law and order candidate. Daley’s political advertisements bragged about Daley’s high conviction rate as State’s attorney. What Daley’s political ads did not say was that many of his convictions were the result of police torture and that the police torture led to false confessions and false imprisonments.

The first time a government employee reported police torture was In February 1982. Chicago police officers arrested Andrew Wilson for the murder of two Chicago police officers. Commander Burge and his subordinates interrogated Wilson. After examining Wilson Dr. John Raba determined the police tortured Wilson and sent a letter to then Chicago Police Superintendent Richard Brzeczek. Dr. Reba wrote, “I examined Mr. Andrew Wilson on February 15 & 16, 1982. He had multiple bruises, swellings and abrasions on his face and head. His right eye was battered and had a superficial laceration. Andrew Wilson had several linear blisters on his right thigh, right cheek and anterior chest which were consistent with radiator burns. He stated he’d been cuffed to a radiator and pushed into it. He also stated that electrical shocks had been administered to his gums, lips and genitals. All these injuries occurred prior to his arrival at the Jail. There must be a thorough investigation of this alleged brutality.”

Brzeczek forwarded Dr. Reba’s letter to State’s Attorney Daley for investigation and possibly prosecution. Daley ignored Brezeck’s letter and no charges were ever brought against any of the officers who tortured Wilson. Daley’s prosecutors convicted Wilson and he was sentenced to death. On April 2, 1987, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled Wilson was forced to confess involuntarily because the police beat and tortured him. The court overturned Wilson’s conviction.

One year after Daley received Dr. Reba’s letter, Daley lost a 1983 mayoral election to Harold Washington. State’s attorney Daley failed to act on Dr. Reba’s letter because mayoral candidate Daley would have had to explain why his role in Burge’s torture. If Daley investigated the torture of Wilson, then many of Daley’s other cases involving Burge would have been scrutinized. Instead of sounding the alarm on behalf of tortured African Americans, Daley kept Chicago police torture secret so he could advance his political career from state’s attorney to mayor of Chicago.

In 1983 Mayor Harold Washington became Chicago’s first African American mayor. If Mayor Washington heard any rumors about police officers torturing African Americans, Mayor Washington would have moved heaven and earth to investigate and stop it. Also Mayor Washington would have made the heinous police officers pay for their crimes against innocent African Americans.

During Washington’s time as mayor, Burge’s use of torture significantly diminished. However, Mayor Washington died 9 months into his second term, and the number of torture cases dramatically increased while Chicago had an interim mayor as Daley remained in his position as States Attorney. Daley ran and won the second time he ran for mayor in 1989. Burge’s torture continued during Daley’s first two years as mayor. Public pressure in 1991 resulted in an investigation.

Had Daley investigated Dr. Reba’s allegations of police torture in 1982, an untold number of African Americans between 1982 and 1991 would have been spared torture at the hands of Commander Burge and his men.

The Treatment of Tortured African Americans Compared to the Treatment of Mayor Daley’s Nephew

Throughout his 40 years as an elected official, Mayor Daley talked tough on crime. However, it was quite a different story when one of his family members took the life of another person. In 2004 Daley’s nephew Richard Vanecko sucker punched David Koschman after a brief dispute. Vaneko was 29 years old, 6’3 and weighed 230 pounds. Koschman was 21 years old, 5’5” and weighed 125 pounds. Vanecko had over 100 lbs and 10 inches on Koschman. Vanecko immediately fled the scene after punching Koschman. Ten days after Vanecko landed his punch,  Koschman died in a hospital without ever regaining consciousness.

Eight years later a local circuit court judge appointed Dan Webb as a special prosecutor to investigate David Koschman’s death. Webb completed his investigation in 2013. Nearly 10 years after Vanecko murdered Koschman with his punch,  Vanecko plead guilty to manslaughter and received a sentence of 60 days in county jail, 60 days of home confinement, and a maximum of 30 months of probation.

Here is a comparison of how Chicago Police officers treated Mayor Daley’s white nephew compared to how the Chicago police treated an African American suspect.

Nevest Colman spent 23 years in prison for rape and murder. The only evidence against Coleman was a false confession that Burge and his men beat and coerced out of him. Eventually a DNA test proved Colman did not rape and murder the female victim.

During the initial police investigation of Mayor Daley’s nephew Robert Vanecko, police officers did not follow the department’s homicide investigation procedures. Homicide investigators did not interview Koschman’s friends and eyewitnesses until long after Vanecko’s punch killed Koschman. Documents presumably implicating Vanecko’s guilt went missing.

After police torture produced a false confession, Coleman served 23 years in a state prison for rape and murder that he did not commit.

Vanecko served 60 days in a suburban county jail for manslaughter that he voluntarily confessed to.

Another Special Prosecutor

In 2002 Edward Egan was appointed special prosecutor to look into hundreds of allegations of police torture. Egan and his team spent four years and $17 million investigating Burge. The investigation concluded that in three of the cases, Daley’s state’s attorney’s office could have proved police torture beyond a reasonable doubt. Although there was ample evidence of police torture, the special prosecutor determined that they could not charge the officers because Daley had let the statute of limitations run out.

As a result of the police torture leading to false confessions and false imprisonment, in 2003 Republican Governor George Ryan commuted to life in prison the death sentences of all 167 Illinois death row prisoners. Ryan said, “Our systemic case-by-case review has found more cases of innocent men wrongfully sentenced to death row. To say it plainly one more time- the Illinois capital punishment system is broken. It has taken innocent men to a hair’s breadth from their unjust execution.

The corrupt cops who abused African Americans never spent a day in jail for torture. On the other hand, the innocent African American who were victims of police torture spent a combined 926 years behind bars.

In 2003, then State Sen. Barack Obama and State Rep. Monique Davis successfully sponsored an Illinois law that mandated the recording of homicide interrogations and confessions. The videotaping of interrogation legislation was intended to prevent police abuse and torture like that of Burge’s from every happening in Illinois again. Before Illinois, Alaska and Minnesota had already enacted videotaping of police interrogation laws. 

Unfortunately, substantial Chicago police misconduct continued after the Burge torture was exposed in 1991. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, Chicago’s police misconduct bill is $662 million and counting.

In 2016 the U.S. Justice Department wrote a scathing review of the Chicago Police Department. The report concluded that Chicago Police officers abused minorities and used excessive force against Afro Americans and Hispanics.

In 2019 Federal Court Judge Robert Dow Jr. installed an independent monitor to oversee the Chicago Police Department. The monitor periodically prepares reports for Judge Dow and the public. The court appointed employees will continue to monitor the Chicago police department’s day to day operations until the department has instituted enough reforms that the constitutional rights of Chicago citizens are protected.

In 2005 a federal judge appointed a monitor to oversee the Mayor Daley administration for six years followed by the Mayor Rahm Emanuel administration for three years. Given Chicago’s previous lengthy 45 year history with federal court oversight, expect the Chicago Police Department’s federal court monitor to remain until 2026 or longer.

Please see my police reform article. Contact Jay Stone at [email protected]

One Reply to “Chicago Police Officers Tortured 118 African Americans”

  1. Thanks so much. These arrest and convictions again destroyed black families. It’s very hard to see brother’s broken by a corrupt system and no one accepts or wants to believe they Benefitted from the system,. It’s hard to see generation after generation kept in poverty because they are born black. During slavery black men were taken from their families, in the 60’s black woman were told “if you put your husband out we will give you and your children housing and cash”. So of course many women never married. Family history for black American’s is untraceable because of these and many more situations. Thanks for bringing this one to light.

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