Hearing set for April 14 on stalled reparations ordinance to compensate Burge torture victims

SHARE Hearing set for April 14 on stalled reparations ordinance to compensate Burge torture victims

Jon Burge is accused of torturing defendants during his time as a Chicago Police Department area commander. | File Photo

Victims allegedy tortured by convicted Area 2 Commander Jon Burge will finally get a City Council hearing on their stalled demand that Mayor Rahm Emanuel put $20 million in reparations behind his public apology.

The stalled reparations ordinance backed by 26 aldermen was first introduced in October 2013. It has yet to receive a hearing — even though Emanuel has cracked the door open to reparations.

That will change at 10 a.m. on April 14, when the City Council’s Finance Committee is finally scheduled to hold a hearing on the issue.

“People power has a way of getting the attention of the hardest of hearts of politicians,” said Burge torture victim Darrell Cannon, adding that there “ain’t no question” that the April 7 runoff forced Emanuel’s hand.

Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), chief sponsor of the ordinance, said he’s confident that torture victims with no other financial redress will get more than just another hearing about the reign of terror that has so undermined trust between citizens and police in the African-American community.

“We’re working toward money. It’s a work in progress. We’ve met with the administration, with the advocates for reparations. We think we may be able to come up with some type of meaningful resolution to the victims and immediate family of this trauma,” Brookins said.

With negotiations continuing, Brookins said it’s not yet clear whether individual torture victims would be compensated.

“They wouldn’t say money, but they committed to a bunch of things that cost money, like education and training,” the alderman said.

“The advocates didn’t think that it went quite far enough because it didn’t just affect the immediate victims, one or two of whom are in their 60s, but also their immediate family. So we’re still trying to cobble something together that will try and make them as whole as possible knowing that it’s a tight budget.”

Two months ago, Emanuel vowed to find a way to achieve “closure” for victims allegedly tortured by Burge and his cohorts, but made no specific financial commitment.

The story was the same after Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

But the mayor made it clear that something more than just a hearing was in the works to “close the books on this dark chapter” in the history of the Chicago Police Department.

“We went about not fighting this legally but settling these cases. I apologized to the victims. They were owed that on Day One. It was long-sought and should have been done. I consistently believed and have promoted that Jon Burge should have his pension revoked. He has darkened our city and put a stain on it,” the mayor said.

“I’m gonna continue to work with all the stakeholders and the aldermen on any additional efforts. And I do fully support the [reparations] hearing. That’s the process to work through that issue. I can’t give you more direction than that.”

If Emanuel can somehow find a way to approve some form of reparations, Brookins said it could help him boost his sagging support among African-American voters who are expected to decide the April 7 runoff.

“Every little bit helps. Obviously, we didn’t do it to help the mayor. We did it to help these families. But it will put a different side on the mayor — that he does care,” Brookins said.

Cannon said he’s “encouraged” that a hearing date has finally been scheduled and that negotiations are underway. He said torture victims would probably be willing to settle for $10 million for $15 million in reparations. But not much less than that.

“They have given Jon Burge all the money he needed. You had no problem finding the money to represent him. You’re still representing his cohorts. So why are you having a problem giving us money?” he said.

“You can’t prolong this anymore. The City Council needs to approve this expeditiously and the mayor needs to find a way this year to compensate us financially. And the city needs to find a site on the South Side so we can put everything in this building so people can see the names and faces of the victims of this nasty, vicious torture thing that existed for so many years.”

The stalled ordinance would serve as a formal apology to Burge “survivors.” But it would go far beyond the words uttered by Emanuel after yet another round of Burge settlements.

It 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 was recently released from a halfway house near his home in the Tampa area.

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