DOWNTOWN — Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle joined the mayor Thursday in accepting government responsibility for the police torture cases brought on by notorious Cmdr. Jon Burge.
Preckwinkle called the Burge torture cases "a disgrace and a blemish not just on the City of Chicago, but on Cook County as well, because it was our criminal justice system in the county that prosecuted these folks who were tortured by the police."
Preckwinkle said she was "grateful" for the apology issued Wednesday by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and called it "long overdue and entirely appropriate."
She didn't issue an apology of her own, as called for by G. Flint Taylor, attorney for Ronald Kitchen, one of two exonerated Burge torture victims who received a $6.15 million city settlement this week. And Preckwinkle only indirectly addressed the involvement of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, who was Cook County state's attorney during the time many of the Burge torture cases took place in the '80s.
Taylor issued a statement saying he was "gratified" by Emanuel's apology and "This certainly is in contrast to Mayor Daley's repeated refusal to apologize."
Yet, he added, "The apology by itself is not enough. The city should also establish a $20 million fund — equal to the amount spent in taxpayer 'pinstripe patronage' to defend Burge, Daley and their cohorts — to compensate and to provide health care and job training to Burge torture victims who cannot sue for damages because of the city's cover-up.
"Until all of the 120 Burge torture victims are properly compensated, the wound on the City of Chicago will not be healed, and the city's conscience will not be cleansed."
Kitchen added a statement saying, "The fight for justice in the torture cases will not be over until all Burge torture victims receive compensation for their suffering, the men still in jail get fair hearings and Burge’s pension is taken from him."
The city is pursuing attempts to strip Burge of his police pension in the courts. Burge is serving a federal perjury sentence for lying about the torture committed under his watch. The city has estimated Burge settlement costs at $83 million, with an additional $12.5 million paid by the county.
Preckwinkle cited her 19 years as a Chicago aldermen before being elected Cook County Board president in 2010.
"During that time I was an outspoken critic of police abuses," she said, adding that there was "a considerable period in Chicago history where these bad actors were allowed to engage in illegal abuse."
She said it was her belief that 95 percent of Chicago police officers are "good and decent people who struggle every day to do a very difficult job," but that left a small minority of rogue cops.
"I'm a history teacher," Preckwinkle said, mentioning her profession before she entered politics. "You gotta 'fess up," she added. "Denial gets you nowhere."