I am proud to join Mayor Emanuel and my City Council colleagues today in introducing into the City Council asweeping reparations package for the victims of abuse and torture at the hands of disgraced former Police Commander Jon Burge (right). Burge ran a torture ring in his police headquarters against suspects, mostly African-American, from the early 1970s through the early 1990s.
Last year, I joined my colleagues, Aldermen Joe Morenoand Howard Brookins, in co-sponsoring a proposedReparations Ordinance that called for a series of actions that would provide redress for the torture survivors and their family members. The ordinance was inspired by the work of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which provided reparations to the victims of Apartheid in South Africa.
The package that will be introduced today is the culmination of months of work and meetings with the Mayor’s representatives, the sponsoring aldermen and stakeholders and representatives of Burge victims, including the People’s Law Office, Chicago Torture Justice Memorials and Amnesty International, USA. The legislation is the first of its kind in the nation and will go a long way to remove the longstanding stain of police torture from the conscience of the City.
As Mayor Emanuel said yesterday, “Jon Burge’s actions were a disgrace–to the City of Chicago, to the hard-working men and women of the police department, and most importantly to those he was sworn to protect.”
The ordinance contains three overarching components, including a public recognition of the torture committed by Jon Burge, financial reparations for his victims, and a collection of services to help bring closure for the individuals impacted by his actions, as well as their families.
As a reminder of the injustices that occurred, and to ensure that they are not repeated, the City will acknowledge and educate the public about this dark chapter in Chicago’s history. This will include a formal City Council apology, the creation of a permanent memorial recognizing the victims of torture, and curricula about the Burge case and its legacy in eighth and tenth grade CPS history classes.
The City will also provide services to support Burge victims and their families. City College tuition and job training will be provided for free to Burge victims, their immediate family members and their grandchildren. The City will fund psychological, family, substance abuse, and other counseling services to Burge victims and their immediate family members.
The City will work with sister agencies to create new opportunities for Burge victims in reentry or transitional job programs. The City will also prioritize Burge victims and their families for re-entry support and social services, senior care services, health services and small business assistance.
Additionally, a $5.5 million fund will be created to provide financial reparations to individuals with a credible claim of Burge-related torture.
After years of delays and denials by City officials in the Daley Administration, today’s action is one of justice for Jon Burge’s victims, and it finally brings an end to this painful chapter in Chicago’s history book. Mayor Emanuel deserves great credit for working with us to bring a measure of justice and accountability for all those who suffered so long ago.
The torture victims’ attorney Joey Mogul, who with her law partner, Flint Taylor, negotiated the deal with the City described the difference in the two administrations as “night and day.” She told the Chicago Sun-Times that “Mayor Daley refused to acknowledge the torture. He refused to apologize, even though he had promised to do so. And he never took any measures to provide any redress.
“Mayor Emanuel has apologized and now, he’s putting his weight behind this legislative package to fully acknowledge the depth and breadth of this torture and provide meaningful reparations. . . . Remarkably, it will be the first time a municipality has provided reparations for police violence,” Joey observed.
We must continue to remain vigilant, however. As recent events across the nation have painfully demonstrated, police misconduct is not a thing of the past and continues sully the reputations of the many fine police officers who perform their difficult and dangerous jobs honestly and honorably every day of the year.
This reparations ordinance is a huge step in the direction of building trust between officers and residents, which is essential to improving public safety.