Torture victims to get $5.5 million from Chicago police

Reuters / Jim Young

The city of Chicago says it will pay $5.5 million to compensate victims who were tortured by law enforcement under the administration of a former top cop.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Monday that he is endorsing a proposed deal that establishes a $5.5 million reparations package, which the Windy City will make available to people who suffered in the 1970s and 1980s under former police commander Jon Burge and his officers.

An internal review determined in 1993 that Burge had used torture, including electric shock, mock executions and suffocation, during interrogations carried out by the Chicago Police Department on his watch starting in 1972. Four death row inmates who later said they falsely confessed during those sessions have since been pardoned, and the city believes that more than 100 people in all, mostly African-American men, were subjected to unlawful treatment during a nearly two-decade span.

Alleged victims of Burge, who was released from home confinement this year after serving a federal sentence for perjury, have long sought reparations from the city and urged Emanuel to back the creation of a $20 million fund during his re-election campaign ahead of January’s vote. Instead, the mayor’s office said it is throwing its weight behind a plan that calls that includes the establishment of a fund for victims that’s nearly one-quarter of what was sought earlier this year.

“Jon Burge’s actions are a disgrace — to Chicago, to the hard-working men and women of the police department, and most importantly to those he was sworn to protect,” Emanuel said in astatement on Tuesday. “Today, we stand together as a city to try and right those wrongs, and to bring this dark chapter of Chicago’s history to a close.”

The Chicago Sun Times reported that the sum will provide up to $100,000 apiece to those with credible claims of torture, and an independent arbitrator will make the final decision on all compensation claims.

Only victims that haven’t previously been compensated by the city for Burge’s behavior are eligible, the paper reported, but an estimated 120 people are nevertheless expected to ask for reparations.