Illinois Axes Funding for Police Torture Commission

Illinois Axes Funding for Police Torture Commission June 12, 2012

A few years ago, a Chicago police commander and many officers were accused of torturing suspects to elicit confessions and the state set up a commission to investigate the allegations and refer the findings to a judge. Now that the commission is ready to turn over its first reports, the state legislature is closing it down.

On Tuesday, a state commission set up to investigate claims of police torture will refer its first cases to Cook County’s chief judge, beginning to fulfill its mandate to plumb one of Chicago’s most stubborn scandals by making recommendations for legal relief.

Then it will go out of business…

Its budget last year: $150,000. Its proposed budget for the coming year, which called for adding a staff attorney: $235,000.

The state House and Senate, however, voted last week to strip the commission of its funding, meaning it will go out of business June 30, although the law that gave the commission its existence will remain on the books. The panel’s eight voting members, led by a former judge and including a former public defender and former prosecutor as well as three non-attorneys, were unpaid, said David Thomas, the executive director.

Thomas said he is unsure why the funding was cut or how it happened. He simply got notice that the money would not be there.

“It’s chump change. But we don’t have a real political constituency. Our people are all in prison,” Thomas said in an interview Monday. “Theoretically, you still have a torture commission. So they can feel good about themselves but not spend any money to fulfill the promise.”

Yeah, who cares about a little thing like justice? We must pinch our pennies.

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  • Didaktylos

    It shouldn’t have been funded by the taxpayers but a by a levy on the salaries of Chicago PD’s officers.

  • jjgdenisrobert

    Simple solution: kickstarter. Make the State Legislature eat their hats: they wanted to slide this under the carpet, let it be financed privately. The law makes gives the commission its mandate, regardless of the financing…

  • d cwilson

    We let the feds get away with torture for a decade. Should we be surprised that local law enforcement agencies are getting in on the fun?

  • Joey Maloney

    Well, nice to see the Democrats getting into the state-level competition for Supervillian status. Don’t want to cede the field entirely to the Republicans.

  • psweet

    I think it’s worth pointing out a couple of things — first, the abuse we’re talking about was quite some time ago. The county refused to investigate it until the statute of limitations ran out. The feds finally put Officer Burge away on charges of lying to investigators about the whole deal.

    Second, while I can’t consider this a plus, the state of Illinois is barely (maybe) this side of broke. If anyone can find that 200,000 in a department that doesn’t already need it, great. Otherwise, we may have to bite the bullet. (Although I love the idea of private financing.)

  • Joshua

    “It’s chump change. But we don’t have a real political constituency. Our people are all in prison,”

    The real reason they don’t let felons vote. Why exactly are they allowed to deny voting to felons again? I don’t think this is a just situation no matter the history.

  • dmcclean

    #2 is an inspired idea. I don’t see why that wouldn’t work.