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Burge Reparations, Apology for Police Torture Victims OK'd by Council

By Ted Cox | May 6, 2015 11:27am | Updated on May 6, 2015 4:41pm
 Former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge walks with members of his legal team into the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse, Monday, June 28, 2010, in Chicago, Illinois. Burge was convicted on all counts of an indictment charging him with perjury and obstruction of justice. (Photo by Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)
Former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge walks with members of his legal team into the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse, Monday, June 28, 2010, in Chicago, Illinois. Burge was convicted on all counts of an indictment charging him with perjury and obstruction of justice. (Photo by Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)
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Alex Garcia/Getty Images

CITY HALL — The City Council voted Wednesday to create a $5.5 million reparations fund for victims of notorious Police Cmdr. Jon Burge and what one alderman called his "henchmen," and issued a formal apology for two decades of police torture.

"Chicago finally will confront its past and come to terms with it," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

A resolution issuing an apology for the torture Burge and his "midnight crew" engaged in from 1972 to 1991 passed unanimously after clearing the Finance Committee Tuesday, as did an ordinance to create the reparations fund.

Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), a lead sponsor of the measures, cited the "horrific behavior" of "Jon Burge and his henchmen," adding it created "an incredulous stain on the City of Chicago."

 Aldermen Joe Moreno and Howard Brookins Jr. celebrate after reparations passed.
Aldermen Joe Moreno and Howard Brookins Jr. celebrate after reparations passed.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

Co-sponsor Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said, "All of us, collectively," bear responsibility in Chicago. "Does it totally make up for what happened?" Moore said. "Absolutely not." But he called it a "fair settlement."

Emanuel later said the notion of paying reparations was critical.

"Words have significance," he said. He added that an essential element of paying reparations was to "own up, look our past in the eye and be held accountable as a city for a wrong we did," as Burge and his "midnight crew" were city employees who elicited confessions through torture for two decades.

"A payment's one thing, but being honest and saying you're sorry and accountable is also another thing," Emanuel said. "Both of them have to go together."

The fund will allow a maximum of $100,000 to be paid to each of the more than 100 Burge torture victims, while the ordinance also allows the victims and their families health care, counseling and free tuition at the City Colleges. It also calls for the subject of police torture to be taught to Chicago Public Schools students in junior high and high school.

Emanuel called it "righting a wrong, removing a stain."

Attorney Joey Mogul, of the People's Law Office and Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, said it made Chicago the first U.S. city to offer reparations for police violence.

"This holistic model should serve as a blueprint for how cities around the country, from Ferguson to Baltimore, can respond to systemic racist police brutality," she said.

Although the city has already paid $64 million in Burge-related settlements, many of his earlier victims saw the deadline for filing lawsuits pass and never received any form of compensation. Burge himself was fired in 1993 and later served a prison sentence for perjury for lying about torture under oath.

"I do believe we should not be paying his pension," Emanuel added.

Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. (21st), another lead sponsor, said he was looking forward to Darrell Cannon riding his new motorcycle around City Hall in a victory lap.

Also Wednesday, the council also approved a $415,000 settlement payment to a 22-year-old woman who accused two uniformed police officers of raping her in 2011.

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