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Chicago Apologizes for Police Torture With $5.5 Million Fund

Image: Chicago Apologizes for Police Torture With $5.5 Million Fund
Chicago Police facility on the city's Westside in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Wednesday, 06 May 2015 01:18 PM

Chicago sought to close the book on an era of police brutality when it formally apologized for 20 years of torture led by a rogue commander, setting up a $5.5 million fund to compensate victims of beatings, electric shock and simulated Russian roulette.

The city council unanimously approved the reparations Wednesday, providing cash rewards of as much as $100,000 to individual victims, most of them black, whose abuse was directed by former police commander Jon Burge from 1972 to 1991.

“This is another step, an essential step, to righting a wrong and removing a stain on the reputation of this great city,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in remarks to the council.

The creation of the compensation fund comes as police in Baltimore, New York, Ferguson, Missouri, and other cities face allegations of brutality and mistreatment of minorities. The Burge scandal has dogged Chicago for years, costing the city about $100 million in lawsuit settlements and other costs.

The reparations agreement, which comes as Chicago faces a solvency-threatening budget crisis, resulted from negotiations between the city and a plaintiff’s attorney, and was endorsed by Emanuel. The terms include free city college tuition to victims and their families, counseling for psychological issues and substance abuse and other assistance.

Wide-Scale Abuse

“For far too long, those in the position of authority turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to atrocities that were occurring on their watch,” Alderman Joe Moore said from the council floor.

After the torture allegations, Chicago police fired Burge in 1993. Cook County prosecutors found evidence of wide-scale abuse after a four-year investigation that ended in 2006. Burge was convicted of lying about the abuse before a federal judge and was sentenced to prison. He was released in October.

The relationship between the city’s police department and minority community remains tense.

A report in March from the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois found that police stopped Chicagoans more than four times as often as New Yorkers at the height of the latter city’s stop-and-frisk practice. Blacks, who compose about one-third of Chicago’s 2.7 million population, represented 72 percent of all stops, the study said.

Legal settlements are eating up ever-larger portions of Chicago’s operating budget. In 2013, the city made almost $200 million in payments, about two-thirds tied to police behavior. The city paid $82 million for all settlements in 2011, the year Emanuel took office.

Chicago is grappling with $20 billion of unfunded pension liabilities and holds the second-lowest general-obligation credit rating among the 90 most populous cities. Only Detroit, which went through a record $18 billion municipal bankruptcy, ranks worse.

After years of shortchanging its pensions, Chicago will have to more than double its annual retirement-fund payment next year, to $1.1 billion. That obligation is the biggest stress on the city and spurred Moody’s Investors Service in February to lower the city’s credit rating to Baa2, two steps above junk.

 

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Chicago sought to close the book on an era of police brutality when it formally apologized for 20 years of torture led by a rogue commander, setting up a $5.5 million fund to compensate victims of beatings, electric shock and simulated Russian roulette. The city council...
police, brutatlity, chicago, fund, millions
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2015-18-06
Wednesday, 06 May 2015 01:18 PM
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