Victims of police torture under notorious former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge would receive an apology and access to a $5.5 million fund under a reparations package that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and several Chicago aldermen proposed Tuesday.
More than 100 people have accused Burge and officers under his command of shocking, suffocating and beating them into giving false confessions in the 1970s and 1980s. The city has so far paid about $100 million in lawsuit settlements to Burge's victims, although many of them accepted relatively small payouts.
The package will also include the creation of a permanent memorial to the victims and an addition to the curriculum in eighth- and 10th-grade Chicago Public Schools history classes, to teach students about the issue. The city will offer services to victims and their families such as free tuition and psychological counseling.
“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,” Emanuel said.
The package will be formally introduced to the Chicago City Council on Wednesday.
“For those of us who have been fighting and struggling to set a landmark, this is a landmark,” torture victim Darrell Cannon said. “This is the moment. What we do here will not be undone. People across the country will talk about Chicago.”
Cannon was freed after 24 years in prison when a review board determined that evidence used to convict him was tainted. He said police pretended to load a shotgun, put it in his mouth and pulled the trigger to terrify him into confessing to a murder that he didn't commit.
Burge, 67, was fired from the Chicago Police Department in 1993. He was never criminally charged with torture, but he was convicted in 2010 of lying about torture in a civil case and served four and a half years in federal custody. He was released from a Florida halfway house in February.
Attorneys Joey Mogul and Flint Taylor, who have represented many Burge victims, called Tuesday’s decision a “historic” agreement reached between Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, Amnesty International and the city of Chicago.
“Its passage and implementation will go a long way to remove the longstanding stain of police torture from the conscience of the city,” the attorneys said in a statement.
Though many years in the making, the issue of the reparations emerged as a factor in the February mayoral election. Supporters of the proposal threatened that if Emanuel didn’t back their cause, they would see to it that one of his challengers was elected, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Last year, the United Nations Committee Against Torture also called for its passage.
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press