Emanuel promises to achieve 'closure' for Burge torture victims

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Former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed Friday to find a way to achieve “closure” for victims with complaints of torture by convicted Area 2 Commander Jon Burge and his cohorts, but made no specific financial commitment.

Darrell Cannon, Mark Clements and other torture victims have put a steep price tag on closure that goes far beyond the mayor’s public apology.

They’re demanding that Emanuel pressure the City Council to approve a stalled ordinance creating a $20 million reparations fund and threatening political retribution against the mayor if he doesn’t.

On Friday, Emanuel once again refused to commit to a specific dollar amount. But he made it clear that some form of compensation is in the works.

“This was not on my watch, but it was on the city’s watch. I personally apologized to the individuals and their families on behalf of the entire city. I want to see the chapter closed for the city. Jon Burge scars the reputation of the good men and women in the Police Department,” the mayor told reporters after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at O’Hare Airport.

“Given these questions [about reparations for torture victims with no other financial redress] I will work with the respective aldermen to come up with a way to continue to, in my view, ultimately see a closure and a closed book to this chapter.”

Emanuel noted once again that he has already gone a long way toward erasing what he called “this stain” on the city’s history.

He’s done that by settling the Burge cases he inherited, trying to cut off Burge’s city pension, even though it didn’t work, and by issuing the public apology that torture victims have long demanded, but former Mayor Richard M. Daley refused to give.

Cannon was unimpressed with the mayor’s pledge to find “closure.”

“Talk is cheap. It’s lip service. He’s putting up words that have no substance whatsoever. It’s time to stop talking and time to do,” said Cannon, who spent 24 in prison for a murder he did not commit after being tortured into confessing by Burge cohorts who allegedly put an electric cattle prod on his genitals and placed a shotgun in his mouth.

“He’s well aware of the scandalous charges that existed along with the mark of torture on this city. He needs to quit talking and do something. Anyone can say some words. He’s in a position to make action happen. We’re asking him to step up and do the right thing. If not, hopefully people will see that he doesn’t represent us and not return him to office.”

Emanuel has been bending over backward to appease African-American voters who helped put him in office, but abandoned him in droves after he closed a record 50 public schools.

But, Cannon maintained there would be no fence mending until the reparations issue is addressed.

In 1988, a court-appointed attorney representing Cannon advised him to accept a meager $3,000 to satisfy his torture complaint. After his murder conviction was dismissed in 2004, Cannon tried to sue again. But a federal appeals court subsequently ruled that he was bound by the $3,000 settlement.

“Chicago cannot turn the corner until you address the reparations issue and until you make amends for the wrongs done for far too long,” Cannon said.

Referring to Emanuel, he said, “You keep saying you want to work with people. But you haven’t reached out to do that.”

The stalled reparations ordinance backed by 26 aldermen was first introduced in October 2013, but has yet to receive a hearing.

It would serve as a formal apology to Burge “survivors,” but go far beyond the words uttered by Emanuel after yet another round of Burge settlements.

The ordinance would: create a commission to administer financial compensation to “at least 30 or 40” torture victims with no other financial redress; establish a South Side center to provide them with medical, psychological and vocational counseling; grant them free City Colleges tuition and require the Chicago Public Schools to teach a history lesson about Burge’s reign of terror.

For decades, Burge was accused of overseeing a “midnight crew” that systematically tortured African-American suspects. The 66-year-old former Area 2 commander was finally brought to justice in 2011 when he was convicted of perjury for lying in civil lawsuits connected to that torture.

Burge was sentenced to 4 1/2 years for lying under oath about police torture, but got time off for good behavior. He’s now in a halfway house near his home in the Tampa area.

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