Videotapes of angry officers savagely beating civilians and charges that a murder plot was hatched in an elite special operations unit have Chicago’s police department reeling, reports the Associated Press. Adding to the woes is word from that federal prosecutors are investigating claims that homicide detectives tortured suspects into confessing to murders that landed them on death row in the 1980s.
The biggest shock came last week when federal prosecutors charged special operations officer Jerome Finnigan with planning the murder of another member of the unit to keep him from talking to the government. “This kind of stuff on Page One is just horrible,” and reinforces a misleading stereotype of police, said Roosevelt University political scientist Paul Green. “The overwhelming 99.9 percent do their job professionally.” A four-year study by special prosecutors appointed by a judge found that Chicago police beat, kicked, and shocked black suspects in the 1970s and 1980s to get confessions. The report said it was impossible to file charges because the incidents were so old that the statute of limitations had run out. “It’s political, it’s cultural, it’s systemic,” said attorney G. Flint Taylor, who represents several former death row inmates suing city officials.