This Isn't 'Police Brutality' -- This Is Guantanamo

It comes too late to be a factor in today's mayoral election in Chicago, but this story will give you a sense of why I voted against the incumbent. The Chicago police operate a "black site" to which they take suspects for interrogation without booking them or giving them access to their lawyers. Please take one moment to read that sentence again. It's not enough that a former Chicago police officer has been outed as a Guantanamo torturer, also by the Guardian; next it emerges that right now, at this very moment, even as we speak, current Chicago cops are holding themselves above the law and violating the most basic rights of American citizens.

The person willing to put himself on the record about this was a protester at the NATO summit held in Chicago in 2012. The mayor -- then, as now, Rahm Emanuel -- welcomed NATO delegates and protesters to the city with an over-the-top display of cops in riot gear, who spent most of three days watching while a few thousand protesters performed some street theater. Perhaps to justify this gigantic waste of police time and municipal money, the city arrested and tried "the NATO Three," who were surely less than half as threatening as 1968's Chicago Seven.

Now we learn that at least one of those not tried was nonetheless taken to a site other than a police station, where instead of being booked he was shackled to a bench for 17 hours and denied a phone call to his lawyer despite repeated requests. Once his lawyer finally found him it took another three hours to get him out there, presumably because if there's no record of your having been arrested it's complicated to arrange the paperwork which will set you free. Paging Franz Kafka!

Was the creation of a domestic Guantanamo-style "black site" made inevitable by the Pentagon's practice of unloading military surplus weapons on local police departments? Maybe -- but it's remarkable how many inevitable things can be avoided if the people in charge just refuse to misbehave.

A defense lawyer (who was also an ex-prosecutor) told me once that we could eliminate police torture entirely by making individual cops personally financially liable for any proved cases. Perhaps we should extend that and make Mayor Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy personally financially liable for whatever immense settlement will ultimately be required to make amends for what's happened on their watch on Homan Avenue.

Or maybe -- today being Election Day -- we could just throw the bums out.