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Homan Square Station Not a 'Black Site,' But Probe Needed, Official Says

By Stephanie Lulay | March 12, 2015 5:47am
 Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) toured Homan Square, a Chicago Police Department site, on Tuesday.
Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) toured Homan Square, a Chicago Police Department site, on Tuesday.
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Cook County Board; DNAinfo/Darryl Holliday

NORTH LAWNDALE — After a tour of the Homan Square Chicago Police station this week, Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin said he still has only one objective: to get the truth.

Boykin, who chairs the Cook County Board's Human Relations Committee and sits on the Criminal Justice Committee, was escorted Monday by Chicago Police officers during a 40-minute tour of the Homan Square station, located at 3340 W. Fillmore St. in North Lawndale.

Boykin's tour of Homan Square came after a Guardian article published in February alleged the site is actually a secret detention facility.

Calling the article "inaccurate" and "misleading," Chicago Police said in a statement that Homan Square is not a secret facility, and serves as home base for officers working undercover assignments.

In an interview with DNAinfo Chicago, Boykin said that police "assured me Homan Square is not a black site. They assured me of that."

Stephanie Lulay looks at the next steps in investigating Homan Square: 

During his tour, Boykin said the stations was "strangely quiet. Eerily quiet.

"... There were no detainees there, but [police] said it wasn't that they 'cleaned it up' for us, but that because they deal with organized crime and narcotics [cases] there, there was a need for undercover. They don't want their identities compromised," he said.

In a statement, CPD officials said Wednesday that Homan Square contains several standard interview rooms like more than 25 CPD district stations and detective bureaus in the city.

"However, Homan Square lacks a lockup facility, where mug shots and fingerprints of arrestees are normally taken. As such, arrestees are not fingerprinted at Homan Square," the statement read.

Boykin called on police to add fingerprinting capabilities at the site, he said.

Boykin said the interview rooms "were small, but they did have interview cameras. The cameras were installed about a year ago. The problem is that some of the abuses being alleged took place more than two years ago."

He said a holding facility "looked like a cage," he said, "but in all fairness" building pipes and other infrastructure restrict its size. And the facility can be crowded: "We were told there can be 9-12 detainees in there at one time, and that they only restrain people who are violent. There were restraints on the bench at the location."

There were no cameras in the lockup, he said.

"I asked why were there no cameras in the lockup areas, and [police] said that was something they're going to add," he said.

After his tour, Boykin renewed his calls for the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct an investigation on the CPD facility. He also wants CPD officers familiar with the Homan Square station to host a meeting with the community to answer questions they may have about the facility.

"The bottom line is we're trying to get to the truth," Boykin said. "Our county, our city and certainly our country are all at their best when the rights of our citizens are respected without qualification or exception."

In February 2013, DNAinfo Chicago reported that a man died in police custody at the Homan Square station, 3340 W. Fillmore St. The man was found unresponsive by police in an interview room, and was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

At the time, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office had no information about the cause of death and police had no information about why the man, 44-year-old John Hubbard, was in custody.

In a CPD statement, officials said that "new reports indicate the Medical Examiner's autopsy report show the man died of an accidental heroin overdose."

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