(MintPress) – More than 100 men could go without their allegations of police torture being heard after the Illinois legislature voted to halt funding for the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission last week. Last year, the commission operated on a $150,000 budget and was slated to receive a total of $235,000 this year in order to […]
(MintPress) – More than 100 men could go without their allegations of police torture being heard after the Illinois legislature voted to halt funding for the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission last week. Last year, the commission operated on a $150,000 budget and was slated to receive a total of $235,000 this year in order to add a staff attorney.
While the commission will go out of business June 30, its volunteer members could still examine cases of police torture that date back to the 1970s, according to the commission’s executive director David Thomas. Thomas said the law that created the commission will remain, allowing those that wish to review cases for free to do so.
“It’s chump change. But we don’t have a real political constituency. Our people are all in prison,” Thomas told the Chicago Tribune. “Theoretically, you still have a torture commission. So they can feel good about themselves but not spend any money to fulfill the promise.”
Rob Warden, commissioner of the torture inquiry group, said that by eliminating the commission’s funding, but still keeping the bill alive that created the group, theoretical isn’t good enough and doesn’t help any of the alleged victims.
“They have created some kind of an illusion of caring, when, in fact, they have just killed (the commission),” Warden told CBS News.
The commission was created in 2009 after claims of police torture were lobbed against former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge and those working below him. The torture scandal dates back to the 1970s, but gained widespread attention in 1982 when torture victim Andrew Wilson said he was beaten, burned and shocked by Burge and his subordinates.
After the initial complaint, more than 100 black men came forward with similar grievances, which resulted in Burge being released from his job with the force and Wilson having his death sentence overturned by the state’s Supreme Court for his convicted crime of killing two police officers.
A 1989 report on the incident detailed Wilson’s visit to Chicago’s Mercy Hospital and Medical Center’s emergency room, where he was treated for “multiple lacerations to his face and scalp, numerous bruises on his chest and what a doctor diagnosed as second-degree burns to his right thigh.”
After Wilson’s story garnered attention, allegations of police torture against the Chicago Police Department piled up. After sitting dormant throughout the 1990s and much of the next decade, the torture commission was created to sift through the allegations to determine which one could precede to a court hearing.
After five of the first cases were deemed credible, funding for the commission was revoked. The remaining cases will go without review. Chicago Democrat Senator Kwame Raoul, who initially sponsored the bill that was responsible for creating the commission, said cutting the commission was counterintuitive and a disgrace to the city’s history and troubles with police torture.
“With the documented history of torture in our Police Department, you’d think it would be enough of a priority to make sure there was funding,” Raoul told the Chicago Tribune.
But Republican Senator Dan Duffy said on his website that the commission was an unnecessary burden for taxpayers and that it did not do enough to warrant continued funding.
“There are far too many boards and commissions in this state doing far too little work to justify their enormous cost to taxpayers,” Duffy said.
Thomas said that the commission now represents a broken promise for anyone trying to find a place to air their grievances against the Chicago Police Department and that he and the commission members would likely walk away from the work in light of the cut funding. He said the vote to eliminate the program “crushed” the promise of providing victims with somewhere to go.
In 2010, Burge was found guilty for obstruction of justice for lying about torture. He is in the midst of serving four-and-a-half years in prison.
Later in 2011, Stanley Wrice received a continuation of his case that accused him of rape in 1982. Wrice alleged that officers working for Burge repeatedly beat him in the face and groin with a flashlight in order to get him to confess to the rape that he says he did not commit. It’s unclear whether his police torture allegation will be heard.