By Hal Dardick and John Byrne, Chicago Tribune (TNS)
CHICAGO — The Chicago City Council on Wednesday unanimously voted to approve a historic $5.5 million reparations fund for torture victims of the notorious Chicago police Commander Jon Burge and his so-called midnight crew of rogue detectives.
“This is another step, but an essential step, in righting a wrong — removing a stain,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said of the reparations fund that he backed and advocates say is the first of its kind in the nation. “Chicago has finally confronted its past and come to terms with it and recognizing something wrong was done.”
The vote came after an emotional debate in which some of Burge’s victims looked on from the gallery in council chambers.
Alderman Howard Brookins, 21st, chairman of the council’s African-American caucus, noted that approval was a long time in coming. “We have shown today that that type of abhorrent behavior will not be tolerated in our city,” Brookins said.
“Does it totally make up for what happened?” asked Alderman Joe Moore, 49th. “Absolutely not. But it’s a powerful statement.”
While Emanuel hopes the fund closes “the Burge book on the city’s history,” it’s likely that dozens more people will come forward to claim they were tortured at the hands of Burge and his associates.
The ordinance under consideration also includes a formal apology and states that the city “wishes” to provide other benefits to more than 50 torture victims and their families that “may include” free City Colleges tuition, various types of counseling, job training, and placement and senior services.
The deal would create a permanent memorial recognizing the victims as well as ensure that eighth- and 10th-grade students attending Chicago Public Schools would be taught about the Burge case and its legacy, cementing the scandal’s role in city history.
Between early 1972 and late 1991, Burge and his men allegedly tortured confessions out of scores of mostly African-American South Side men using electric shocks, beatings, smotherings, and simulated Russian roulette.
Photo: Jaison Oliver via Twitter