Racist emails show Chicago official joked about “safari tour” to see violence in black neighborhoods

By: Ray Long and Todd Lighty – Contact Reporters


Overtly racist, sexist and homophobic emails were distributed for years among a group of top-level Chicago water department supervisors. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

Paul Hansen was a supervisor in the water department who allegedly used his city email to negotiate firearms deals. (July 18, 2017)

In a city scarred by a deep and troubling history with guns, a supervisor in the scandal-plagued water department used his city email account to negotiate firearms deals and make light of deadly Fourth of July violence in black neighborhoods by offering “Chicago Safari” tours, a new watchdog report revealed Monday.

The latest development in the ongoing investigation, which the Tribune first disclosed in May, emerged as Inspector General Joseph Ferguson detailed how ousted district water superintendent Paul Hansen emailed with individuals over personal purchases or sales of at least four firearms and five cars.

Those emails about firearms started the investigation over his use of a government account for personal business, which is against city rules. And it quickly spread to other emails sent by Hansen, who is white and the son of a former alderman, to other water department bosses, according to City Hall sources.

Newly released racist, sexist emails show scope of scandal t Chicago’s water department

In his quarterly report, Ferguson revealed a fresh string of anti-black emails sent to multiple high-ranking water department workers that touted a fake “Chicago Safari” package. It cited the number of shootings during a July Fourth weekend and guaranteed tourists would observe “at least one kill and five crime scenes” and also see “lots of animals in their natural habitat.”

Hansen’s racially charged emails included messages to fellow workers purported to be in “Ebonics,” sometimes called American black English, and a picture describing a swimming pool for a small African-American child who sits in a bucket filled with water while holding a slice of watermelon, the report found.

Ferguson also cited Hansen’s “Watermelon Protection” email that featured a picture depicting a Ku Klux Klan scarecrow guarding a field of watermelons, part of a cache of racist, sexist and homophobic emails the Tribune first disclosed online Friday.

Barrett Murphy, First Deputy Commissioner at the Chicago Department of Water Management- Chandler West~Sun-Times

A second figure noted in the report for anti-Muslim and anti-black emails was Thomas J. Durkin, the general foreman of plumbers who resigned recently after being placed on administrative leave while under investigation….

Still, Ferguson’s report raised questions about whether he found all the troubling emails. Ferguson said the mayor’s Law Department imposes restrictions that do not allow “unfettered access to city emails,” which has hampered the investigation. He said the Law Department requires that his office submit requests for emails using limited search terms and date ranges….

“The protocol allows up to 20,000 emails to be produced at a time, however, we greatly exceeded that count in this investigation and have accommodated similar requests every other time the Inspector General has requested a larger search,” McCaffrey said.

Hansen’s misuse of a city computer was so prevalent that, in one four-month period alone, he called up sexually explicit, age-restricted YouTube videos and visited other internet sites unrelated to city business on “thousands of occasions,” the report found. Durkin also was cited for sending and receiving sexually explicit photos and videos on his city email account….

At the time, the mayor’s office said Emanuel acted “quickly and decisively” by asking Murphy and top deputy William Bresnahan to step down after learning of what was then an 8-month-old Ferguson investigation….

Plaintiff Derrick Edmond, left, and attorney Victor P. Henderson walk outside the Sawyer Water Purification Plant at S.79th St. and the lakefront on June 29, 2017. (Phil Velasquez / Chicago Tribune)

And Emanuel’s newly installed water department Commissioner Randy Conner, an African-American, said his agency “has a zero tolerance policy on racism and sexism” and “will continue to take all appropriate measures to fully enforce this policy up to and including termination, or separation” from the department….

In late June, Durkin, the general foreman of plumbers, and John “Jack” Lee Jr., a district superintendent, were placed on administrative leave pending disciplinary decisions and now have resigned….

Ferguson said both Hansen and Durkin were designated as having resigned in lieu of discharge, and they will be placed on the ineligible-for-rehire list.

In another water department case, Ferguson recommended that a chemist who allegedly harassed a current water worker and a former employee be fired. Ferguson alleged the chemist made multiple derogatory text messages and phone calls, citing him for “aggressive and threatening behavior,” according to the report.

The department fired the chemist, who is fighting the termination.


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Chicago Violence Requires A Real Commitment, Not A Passing Presidential Tweet

From: Huffington Post Black Voices

Written by: Rev. Al Sharpton 

In the recent blog post “Chicago Violence Requires A Real Commitment, Not A Passing Presidential Tweet,” Reverend Al Sharpton reflects on gun violence in Chicago and the need for real commitment to address this problem.

Sharpton explains:

“Donald Trump recently met with some supporters and appointees who he misled the press into believing was a meeting with African-American leaders, ostensibly as a form of outreach to our community.”

He continues:
“…it is abundantly clear that Trump is not reaching out to us appropriately, nor getting the correct input on our concerns. We need a real commitment—not a passing presidential tweet.”


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Read more about “Chicago’s Grim Era of Police Torture.”

Read more about the relationships among gun violence, power, privilege, and the politics of gun ownership here.

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Chicago’s Grim Era of Police Torture

By The Editorial Board, New York Times

Andrew Wilson, victim of torture by Chicago Police Dept., taken while in custody. Courtesy of the Chicago Torture Archive.

Andrew Wilson, victim of torture by Chicago Police Dept., taken while in custody. Courtesy of the Chicago Torture Archive.

Americans who think of officially sanctioned torture as something that happens in other countries will be shaken when they confront the grim holdings of the Chicago Torture Archive, an online research repository set to open early next year. The archive — which includes testimony and documents from criminal trials and civil rights cases — was collected by the People’s Law Office, which represented numerous survivors of police torture. The trove will give researchers chilling insight into the grisly period from the 1970s to the 1990s when the Chicago Police Department’s infamous torture crew rounded up more than 100 African-American men who were shocked with cattle prods, beaten with telephone books and suffocated with plastic bags until many confessed to crimes.

Darrell Canon in Chicago in 2008. Credit Scott Olson/Getty Images

Darrell Canon in Chicago in 2008. Credit Scott Olson/Getty Images

The materials, made available by the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights at the University of Chicago, contain nightmarish stories, like that of Darrell Cannon. In 1983, three Chicago police officers arrested Mr. Cannon in connection with a murder case, drove him to a desolate area and tortured a confession out of him. Mr. Cannon explains in court documents that he refused to confess after the officers forced the barrel of a shotgun into his mouth and repeatedly pulled the trigger. He finally gave in, he said, after they shocked his genitals with a cattle prod….

Mr. Cannon served 24 hellish years in prison — nine of them at a supermax facility. But by the time state prosecutors finally dismissed his criminal case, it had become clear that his torture story was no exaggeration and that a cover-up had been undertaken to hide this period of police abuse from view.

Jon Burge, a former commander of the Chicago Police Department. Credit Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune, via Associated Press

Jon Burge, a former commander of the Chicago Police Department. Credit Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune, via Associated Press

By then, Jon Burge, the commander who had overseen the torture squad, had been fired after he was connected to a torture case. But statutes of limitation shielded him from prosecution for the abuses themselves.By then, Jon Burge, the commander who had overseen the torture squad, had been fired after he was connected to a torture case. But statutes of limitation shielded him from prosecution for the abuses themselves….

The Chicago City Council confronted the torture era head-on last year when it approved a measure that has paid reparations to scores of police torture victims. The legislation also provides substance abuse treatment, counseling and other services to victims and their immediate family members, as well as free tuition at city colleges. A memorial will be built and this history will be taught in city public schools…

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118 Black Men Tortured On His Watch–Less Than 4 Years of Jailtime

By Nick Chiles, Atlanta BlackStar

A Picture of Jon Burge

Jon Burge walked free after only three-and-a-half years in prison, despite having commanded the Chicago P.D. nightshift that tortured at least 118 black men.

Jon Burge is one of the most notorious crooked cops in American history—a man who oversaw the torture of more than 100 Black men over the course of decades while they were in the custody of Chicago police.

Burge strolled out of federal prison on Thursday, three-and-a-half years after beginning his sentence for his 2010 conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice for lying about police torture.

That’s right—Burge wasn’t even convicted for committing the torture, but instead for lying about it….

One of his earliest victims was Anthony Holmes, who in 1973 was electrically shocked by Burge, who put a plastic bag over his head while torturing him to elicit a signed confession for a murder Holmes said he didn’t commit. Holmes had to serve a full 30-year sentence for the murder—and has been unsuccessful in seeking reparations….

There are about 115 known victims who were tortured by Burge and his midnight crew from the early ’70s to the early ’90s, according to attorney Joey Mogul, who has been a vocal advocate for torture victims through the People’s Law Office and the Chicago Torture Justice Memorial Project.

Of that number, Mogul said only about 16 have received any sort of legal compensation from the city.

In total, the city of Chicago has had to pay $64 million in court settlements on Burge-related torture cases filed before the statute of limitations ran out.

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The Birth of CORE

CORE Button

CORE Button

The Congress Of Racial Equality (CORE) was founded on this date in 1942. CORE is an American interracial voluntary organization established by James Farmer to undertake direct-action projects to improve race relations and end discriminatory policies.

Farmer had been working as the race-relations secretary for the Fellowship of Reconciliation, but resigned over a dispute in policy; he founded CORE as a vehicle for the nonviolent approach to combating racial prejudice that was inspired by Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi. CORE members held a sit-in at a coffee shop in Chicago in their founding year; it was one of the first of its kind in the United States. Other CORE projects have included voter registration drives in the South and actions to deal with a wide range of community issues in the North.

Read more about C.O.R.E. here.