Homan Square Police Facility

The Guardian published a story by Spencer Ackerman describing the Chicago Police Department's Homan Square facility as the “domestic equivalent of a CIA black site,” where secretive police units are allegedly using illegal interrogation tactics on detainees who are denied access to lawyers or relatives. The Chicago Police Department denies any wrongdoing is happening at Homan Square. So what exactly is the Homan Square facility and what are police allowed to do when conducting interrogations of suspects?

Joining us are Executive Director of the Chicago Justice Project Tracy Siska, who wrote an article for The Guardian about police interrogation tactics in Chicago over the years, and Thomas Durkin, a lawyer at Durkin & Roberts who wrote a Chicago Sun-Times op-ed stating the Homan Square facility is not equivalent to a CIA black site. Chicago Tonight invited the Fraternal Order of Police to discuss the Homan Square facility and its uses, but the FOP declined the invitation and deferred to the Chicago Police Department, which has also been invited.

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Last month, The Guardian began reporting about allegations of abuse by the Chicago Police Department at its Homan Square facility.

According to The Guardian, alleged police practices at the facility 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; and holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.”

Brian Jacob Church, who is known as one of the “NATO 3,” was the first to speak out to The Guardian about his experience at Homan Square when he was brought to the facility on May 16, 2012.

“Homan Square is definitely an unusual place,” Church told The Guardian. “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.”

View a map of the Homan Square facility, which houses the Chicago Police Department’s Evidence and Recovered Property Section.

Church said he was handcuffed to a bench in the facility for approximately 17 hours while being intermittently interrogated. Church said he was never read his Miranda rights. Others who have spoken to The Guardian have recounted similar experiences at the facility. 

In 2011, Brock Terry said he was taken to Homan Square by police after five and half pounds of marijuana were found on him, according to The Guardian.

“I sat in that place for three days, man – with no talking, no calls to nobody,” Terry told The Guardian. “I was kept there. I didn’t speak to a lawyer or anything… I didn’t interact with nobody for three days. And then when I do see the light of day, I go straight to another police station, go straight there to county and be processed.”

In light of The Guardian’s reporting, the Chicago Police Department issued a fact sheet about the Homan Square facility

“Homan Square is a facility owned and operated by the Chicago Police Department since 1999. It serves a number of functions, some of which are sensitive and some of which are not, however it is not a secret facility. 

In fact, Homan Square is home to CPD’s Evidence and Recovered Property Section, which is open to the public. Homan Square is the only CPD facility where members of the public can collect evidence recovered during a now complete criminal investigation, or found property. 

Portions of the facility are sensitive. Homan Square is the base of operations for officers working undercover assignments. These men and women dress in plain clothes and work to disrupt gang activity and clear drug markets out of neighborhoods. Advertising their base of operations could put their lives at risk, which is why Homan Square features little signage. Other sensitive units housed at the facility include the Bureau of Organized Crime (including the narcotics unit), the SWAT Unit, Evidence Technicians, and the CPD ballistics lab.”

The statement goes on to state: “There are always records of anyone who is arrested by CPD, and this is no different at Homan Square.” The fact sheet also outlines the CPD’s arrest and interview procedures, which can also be found on the police’s Department Directives.

CPD arrest, detention, and interview procedures include:

  • Officers will take an arrestee to the appropriate holding facility, notify a supervisor, and report the name, circumstances and probable charge
  • Officers will ensure all arrest documentation is properly completed
  • Arrestees held at a facility that is not a district station (like Homan Square), will be transported to the appropriate district holding facility and a supervisor will “visually inspect arrestees and the conditions of the processing location to verify the arrestees’ well-being”
  • Arrestees will be booked, charged, and made eligible for bond without delay. Investigation or interrogation of an arrestee will not delay the booking process
  • Before any interview or interrogation takes place, arrestees or suspects will be warned of their rights
  • An individual who wishes to consult a lawyer will not be interrogated until they have an opportunity to do so

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