Picks and Pans Review: The End of the Nightstick

updated 07/04/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/04/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

PBS (Tues., July 5, 10 p.m. ET)


This documentary about an alarming pattern of police brutality in Chicago begins with the 1982 case of Andrew Wilson. Brought in as a suspect in the shooting of two cops, Wilson testified in a later civil suit that a high-ranking white Chicago officer, Commander Jon Burge, put a plastic bag over his head to suffocate him, had him handcuffed to a hot radiator and then used a black box with alligator clips to torture him with electroshock until a confession was coerced.

After being convicted, Wilson appealed. Even with the confession thrown out, he was reconvicted. But community activists kept up sustained pressure on the police department and the mayor to get rid of Burge. The campaign was fueled by the allegations of several other black and Hispanic men who claimed to have suffered similar abuse at Burge's hands, including suffocation, Russian roulette and electric shock. Just last year Burge was fired for his actions in the Wilson case.

Though awkwardly assembled, the documentary is a disturbing exploration of institutionalized racism. It makes one wonder how much we would have heard of Rodney King if a video camera had not been there to capture his beating.

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