Police Torture on Chicago's Southside

From 1972 to 1991, over 110 Black men and women were tortured by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and a ring of white detectives under his command at Area 2 and 3 Police Headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. The torture techniques included electrically shocking men's genitals, ears, and fingers with cattle prods or an electric shock box; suffocating individuals with typewriter covers or plastic garbage bags; mock executions with firearms; beatings with telephone books and rubber hoses; and, in one instance, anally raping a man with a cattle prod.

In addition to inflicting excruciating physical pain, the detectives also routinely tormented the survivors with racist epithets and slurs throughout their interrogations. Darrell Cannon recounts that, throughout his interrogation, he no longer had a name and was only known as "nigger." The electric shock box was commonly referred to as the "nigger box." Detectives threatened to hang Gregory Banks, another torture survivor, "like other niggers" - making a clear reference to lynchings.

Burge and his men systematically engaged in acts of torture and racist verbal abuse to extract confessions, which were then introduced as powerful pieces of incriminating evidence at scores of survivors' trials to secure their convictions and, in eleven cases, to obtain their death sentences. In the vast majority of these cases, the survivors complained about the torture and abuse they suffered at the hands of Burge and his men in their criminal proceedings, seeking to suppress their confessions on the basis that they were physically coerced in violation of their Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. In so doing, they courageously testified at hearings before judges and later before juries, laying bare the details of their painful, terrifying, humiliating, and degrading interrogations. At each of these proceedings, the detectives routinely and cavalierly denied under oath that any torture or coercion occurred. Judges and juries routinely credited the word of white police detectives over those of Black torture survivors, facilitating the admission of these confessions in the criminal proceedings.