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Columbia Journalism Review: A photojournalist tells the stories of Chicago police torture victims

Jackie Spinner, a professor at Columbia College who has invited me to speak to her international reporting classes several times and ex-Washington Post correspondent in Baghdad and elsewhere, wrote the first little bit of press about my current oral history and portrait project on victims of Chicago municipal police torture under former Commander Jon Burge. Burge was on active duty with the Chicago Police Department from 1973-1991 and subsequently fired in 1993 after an array of crimes involving the abuse of suspects in custody were exposed on his watch, including but not limited to beatings, burning and electro-torture. Graciously, Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) has ran a couple of the press photographs including one of Marvin Reeves, a man so gentle he was like an uncle when we spoke for nearly two hours in his sister’s Bronzeville apartment. He received a multi-million dollar settlement from the city of Chicago for the injustices done to him.

From Jackie’s article:

Now Rivkin, who grew up in the city, plans to spend the next year photographing these men and recording their stories. The project, supported a recent grant from the International Women’s Media Foundation, is designed to culminate in a multimedia exhibit that will be shown to the public in Chicago sometime later this year or early next.

“I want to hear their story in their words,” she says. “I am facilitating them getting their story out there. I am recording their voice and editing it for public consumption. But I’m not altering it.”

Rivkin was in elementary school in 1990 when the Chicago Reader published John Conroy’s first story exposing a stunningly brutal system of police torture under Burge. Later in high school, Rivkin rallied against the Illinois death penalty after stories emerged that nearly a dozen men ended up on death row after being tortured into giving confessions.

Read the whole story on CJR, “A photojournalist tells the stories of Chicago police torture victims“.