The Guardian newspaper published a story Tuesday saying the Chicago Police Department operates an “off-the-books interrogation compound” that some local defense lawyers called the domestic version of a secret CIA “black site,” but police officials responded that the facility isn’t used to violate suspects’ rights — and isn’t even secret.
The massive Homan Square facility is a former Sears, Roebuck & Co. warehouse on the West Side. The building now houses the police department’s Organized Crime Bureau, the Evidence and Recovered Property Section, its ballistics lab and the SWAT unit.
“The secretive warehouse is the latest example of Chicago Police practices that echo the much-criticized detention abuses of the U.S. war on terrorism,” the Guardian reported.
But the existence of the building isn’t being kept under wraps by the police: The public is able to recover inventoried property from the evidence unit and news conferences are regularly held at Homan Square when the department shows off seized drugs.
And unlike other Chicago Police facilities over the years, no allegations of torture have been reported in the media in connection with Homan Square.
Marty Maloney, a spokesman for the police department, said interviews are handled no differently at Homan Square than at other police facilities, such as the department’s 22 districts or its three detective headquarters.
“If lawyers have a client detained at Homan Square, just like any other facility, they are allowed to speak to and visit them,” Maloney said. “There are always records of anyone who is arrested by CPD, and this is not any different at Homan Square.”
Arrest reports are completed at Homan Square, and suspects are taken to other facilities for booking, Maloney said.
The Guardian quoted Brian Jacob Church, a protester known as one of the “NATO 3,” saying he was handcuffed for about 17 hours and was denied access to an attorney while police interrogated him. Church said he was later taken to the nearby Harrison police district, where he was booked.
“It brings to mind the interrogation facilities they use in the Middle East,” Church was quoted as saying.
The Guardian story didn’t allege that Church suffered from physical abuse at Homan Square other than his complaint that his left wrist was handcuffed to a bar behind a bench and his ankles were cuffed together.
In April 2014, Church and his two co-defendants were convicted of felony counts of possessing an incendiary device and misdemeanor mob action, but they were acquitted of more serious terrorism charges tied to the NATO summit in May 2012.
The Guardian story indicated that one suspect suffered a head injury while in custody at the Homan Square facility.
“The allegation that physical violence is a part of interviews with suspects is unequivocally false, it is offensive, and it is not supported by any facts whatsoever,” Maloney responded.
The Guardian spoke to several Chicago defense attorneys who said they’d never heard of Homan Square before their clients were taken there. Attorneys have attempted to gain access to the facility, but were “most often turned away even as their clients remain in custody inside,” the newspaper reported.
The Guardian also ominously noted that John Hubbard, 44, was found unresponsive in an interview room at Homan Square and pronounced dead on Feb. 2, 2013. The Guardian said the Cook County medical examiner’s office couldn’t locate a record indicating his cause of death.
But on Tuesday, the office told the Sun-Times that Hubbard died of an accidental heroin overdose. He was taken into custody after he allegedly bought drugs from an undercover officer, arrest records show.