The city of Chicago is trying to put to rest one of its most persistent scandals, proposing a $5.5 million reparations fund for dozens of torture victims connected to former Chicago police Commander Jon Burge and his so-called midnight crew of rogue detectives, the Chicago Tribune reports. The proposal, negotiated with a key plaintiff’s attorney and supported by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, would offer free city college tuition for victims and their families and free counseling for psychological issues and substance abuse as well as other assistance to more than 50 potential victims. The city would issue a formal apology, create a permanent memorial recognizing the victims and ensure that eighth- and 10th-grade students attending Chicago Public Schools would be taught about the Burge case and its brutal legacy.
While Emanuel said it would “close this book, the Burge book, on the city’s history, it is unlikely to stanch the flow of torture claims from victims. A Loyola University Chicago law school dean appointed by a judge has identified 20 additional cases in which inmates may have been Burge victims. Other inmates who have made torture claims continue to fight to overturn convictions and win their freedom. And one lawsuit over the torture is pending. Already, the stubborn scandal has cost taxpayers about $100 million in lawsuit settlements, judgments and other legal costs. As many as 120 men, mostly African Americans, were tortured from early 1972 to late 1991. Burge and his detectives had gained a reputation for solving brutal murders, rapes and deadly arsons in some of the South Side’s most violent neighborhoods by obtaining confessions. Suspects and their lawyers claimed that the officers used suffocation, electric shock and even Russian roulette to coerce the confessions, but those claims were ignored by prosecutors and rebuffed by criminal court judges.