Chicago Pays $5,500,000 to 57 Victims of Police Torture

The city paid reparations to the victims Monday for abuses suffered during former Police Cmdr. Jon Burge’s tenure from the 1970s into the early 1990s.

Aaron Cheney demonstrates outside the federal courthouse where former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge was attending a hearing on charges that he obstructed justice and committed perjury for lying while under oath during a 2003 civil trial about Chicago-police torture allegations Oct. 27, 2008, in Chicago.
Aaron Cheney demonstrates outside the federal courthouse where former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge was attending a hearing on charges that he obstructed justice and committed perjury for lying while under oath during a 2003 civil trial about Chicago-police torture allegations Oct. 27, 2008, in Chicago. Scott Olson/Getty Images

On Monday, 57 people who were tortured by Chicago police decades ago were paid a total of $5.5 million in reparations for the abuse they suffered under former Police Cmdr. Jon Burge, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

From 1970 to the early 1990s, Burge and other officers under his command shocked, suffocated and beat some 100 victims, most of whom were African-American men, into giving false confessions that landed many on death row. According to the Sun-Times, Burge was never charged criminally for his role but did serve four-and-a-half years in prison after he was caught lying about torturing victims during a civil case. He was released from a halfway house last year, the Sun-Times reports.

To date, Chicago has paid more than $100 million in “court ordered judgments, settlements of lawsuits and legal fees” related to the torture scandal, according to the Sun-Times. Most of the victims who received payments on Monday took home $100,000 payouts, a fraction of what other victims received from previous settlements.

The payments, which were vetted by an arbitrator and a professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Kent School of Law, are part of an ordinance passed by the City Council last year that includes “a formal apology, the construction of a memorial to the victims and the addition of the police torture to the city’s school history curriculum,” the Associated Press reports.

The ordinance also includes psychological counseling and free tuition at some community colleges, which AP notes may also be available to the victims’ children and grandchildren.

Paying reparations “is a moral compunction and a moral reckoning to right a wrong,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the Sun-Times. “There is no statute of limitations on that.”

The payments come as the Chicago Police Department is facing national criticism after the release of a video in November showing white Police Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014, as well as the December shooting of 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier and 55-year-old Bettie Jones.

One torture victim, Darrell Cannon, who was released after 24 years in prison, told the Sun-Times on Monday that the payments were only one part of the healing process. “We still have a long way to go,” he said.

Read more at the Chicago Sun-Times and the Associated Press.

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