Chicago to Pay in Police Torture Scandal

The city of Chicago on April 14 proposed a $5.5 million reparations fund for dozens of torture victims connected to former police Commander Jon Burge and his so-called “midnight crew of rogue detectives,” the Chicago Tribune reports.
The proposal, negotiated with a plaintiff’s attorney and supported by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, would offer free city college tuition for victims and their families, free psychological counseling, and other such assistance to more than 50 potential victims. The city would also issue a formal apology, create a permanent memorial recognizing the victims and ensure that the new generation of students in Chicago public schools is taught about the Burge case. Other inmates who assert their confessions were extracted through torture continue to fight to overturn convictions and win their freedom. The scandal has already cost tax-payers some $100 million in lawsuit settlements, judgments and other legal costs.

“It brings it much closer to closure, especially from the city’s point of view,” attorney Flint Taylor said of the proposed reparations package. “But it’s not done and over.” Taylor and other attorneys say as many as 120 men, mostly African Americans, were tortured from early 1972 to late 1991. Burge and his detectives gained a reputation for “solving” murder, rape and arson cases on the rough South Side by thusly extracting confessions. Suspects and their lawyers claimed that the officers used suffocation, electric shock and even Russian roulette to coerce confessions, but those claims routinely were ignored by Cook County prosecutors and dismissed by criminal court judges. Burge was finally fired in 1993, as the claims mounted.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Sun Times notes that the city is prepares to pay $5 million to the family of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager shot 16 times by a police officer last October in a case that has drawn an FBI investigation. The McDonald case was at the forefront as some 200 people converged on Daley Center Plaza on April 14 as part of the #ShutDownA14 movement called by Cornel West and other leaders of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. Activists called for people to leave work and school and take to the streets to draw attention to a wave of police shootings of unarmed Black men.

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