Police Abuse

UPDATED! Chicago Will Pay $5.5 Million in "Reparations" to Victims of Police Torture


Updated, 3:47 p.m.: As a couple of readers point out in the comments section, Chicago has paid out $521 million in police abuse fines and settlements over the past decade alone. None of that money has come directly from the Chicago Police Department's budget or retirement funds.

Washington Post, via Alan Vanneman:

Whenever Chicago Police commander Jon Burge needed a confession, he would walk into the interrogation room and set down a little black box, his alleged victims would later tell prosecutors. The box had two wires and a crank. Burge, they alleged, would attach one wire to the suspect's handcuffed ankles and the other to his manacled hands. Then, they said, Burge would place a plastic bag over the suspect's head. Finally, he would crank his little black box and listen to the screams of pain as electricity coursed through the suspect's body.

Burge and officers under his control were accused of torturing suspects between 1972 and 1991, when he was suspended. Two years later, reports The Chicago Sun-Times, he was fired.

One week after winning Chicago's first mayoral runoff, [Rahm] Emanuel agreed to create a $5.5 million "reparations" fund to compensate victims allegedly tortured by Burge and his Area 2 cohorts.

The compensation was negotiated with and agreed to by attorneys representing torture victims who couldn't sue because the statute of limitations had run out….

The city has pegged the number of potential recipients at 55. Plaintiffs attorneys have said it could be as high as 65. Individual awards will be capped at $100,000. Disputes will be resolved by an independent arbitrator, most probably a former federal judge.

Burge was eventually found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice and sentenced to federal prison in 2011 and released last year.

The dollar amounts are measly, to be sure, but represent at least some form of acceptance of guilt and resolve not to repeat the cycle endlessly:

"My goal is to both close this book, the Burge book on the city's history, close it and bring closure for the victims. And make sure that we take this as a city and learn from it about what we have to do going forward because the police department is about public safety, community policing and building trust," Emanuel told reporters Tuesday.

Here's hoping that next up on Emanuel's to-do list is a thorough end to Chicago police's use of "black sites" for holding suspects incommunicado such as the one that recently came to light.

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  1. via Alan Vanneman

    SMH. I sent this in too. I really must be the worst.

    1. Never blame on yourself what can obviously be described as pervasive sexism.

    2. Wow – PWND by Anal? That’s….the worst.

    3. This is why there are no female libertarians.

    4. I wish Nick et al. would learn to spell his name correctly.

  2. And make sure that we take this as a city and learn from it…

    Is the money coming out of the department’s budget? Out of their pensions? Then shut the fuck up.

    1. You’d think that at this point police brutality would be a budget item for the CPD like any other given the consistency with which they pay claims out.

      1. Well, it IS budgeted for, though I don’t know what “line” it comes out of. Chicago, over the last 10 years, has average almost $1,000,000 PER WEEK related to police brutality. And that’s just settlements, the actual cost of performing brutally in the first place is not included.


        1. the actual cost of performing brutally in the first place is not included

          Buried in the overtime budget and the paid vacation budget, I expect.

          1. From what I understand, it’s a line item in the county treasurer’s labeled “Insurance”. Bulk rate negotiated and paid yearly. It’s not my field though.

            Are there any sycophantic petty bureaucrats here who can confirm this?

    2. I remember telling a cop lover that lawsuits and damages should come out of the cop’s pension funds and they got really angry. There’s absolutely no incentive for law enforcement officers to not abuse the citizens but if you start taking money out of the pension fund, they will probably be a bit more vigilant.

      1. As it is, cops have an incentive to abuse people. It’s a way to get a long paid vacation while the DA sweeps it under the rug.

        1. This is why we should not describe police abuse as “cultural,” although a culture of abuse certainly exists, but institutional. The culture is a symptom of the incentives by which cops operate. Blaming it on culture lets apologists weasel out of addressing the substance of the problem by resorting to talk about sensitivity training. Same goes for the racialists for whom police abuse is a matter of bigotry rather than the other way around. Cops have too little oversight, too little meaningful punishment, too much latitude to employ violence when it suits them, and far too many laws to enforce.

          1. The institution attracts people who fit into the culture.

      2. It would be restored in the next budget.

        Money is fungible.

        Trying to separate various budgets is like giving away billions in aid to dictators with the cover story that it is food, not military equipment, or limiting food stamps to food, not snacks or tobacco or alcohol.

  3. I only knew about this because I have a friend who went to the protests for the reparations.

  4. “, Burge would place a plastic bag over the suspect’s head. Finally, he would crank his little black box and listen to the screams of pain as electricity coursed through the suspect’s body.”


    It is indeed a little bizarre to learn that the “greatest sins in American history” – the use of torture by the CIA @ black sites, the abuse of detainees in places like Baghram and Abu Ghraib – were not actually even particularly novel, compared to the standard operating procedure of a large urban police force in a city run by the Bluest of the Blue. They were the Hipsters of Torture = “We were doing it before it was *cool*

    And they started in ’71? I wonder if the Milgram Experiment had any influence on their decision to go with ‘electrocution’. At least the idea and methodology was already out there. It wouldn’t take much for a cop to look past the whole ‘psychological experiment’ bits and go, “That sounds like a really great idea”

  5. Isolated incident.

    A few bad apples.

    More training.

    You don’t understand the pressure of their jobs.

    They have a right to go home safely to the families every night.

    Did I miss anything?

    OH! Fuck you, that’s why.

    We good now?


    1. Exactly this. All of which pseudo-reformers would describe as a pervasive but ultimately skin-deep cultural problem rather than a set of issues baked into the institution of policing. The “culture” of abuse merely filled the vaccuum left when the notion of civic attachment or community bled out of the profession.

  6. He offered Chicago ORDER.

    1. “Gentlemen – let’s get it straight. The police are not there to create disorder. The police are there to PRESERVE disorder….” – Mayor R Daley the Elder, actual quote

  7. “The City of Chicago deeply regrets the revelation of this distasteful chapter in our history.”

    1. “Mistakes were made.”

      1. “Vacations were taken.”

        “Everybody who mattered got home safe.”

  8. Twenty-four years ago, eh? ‘Course, there’s no way this sort of this is going on now

  9. The dollar amounts are measly, to be sure, but represent at least some form of acceptance of guilt and resolve not to repeat the cycle endlessly

    I know too many writers not to read this as exquisite sarcasm. Well done, Nick.

    No one ruin it for me.

  10. http://chicago.suntimes.com/ch…..-brutality

    Burge’s “Midnight Crew” may be the most visible symbol of excessive force, but from a legal and fiscal standpoint they’re actually a relatively small part of a shockingly pervasive citywide problem uncovered by a Better Government Association investigation the Sun-Times published a week ago.

    Brutality-related lawsuits have cost Chicago taxpayers $521 million over the last decade ? that’s more than half a billion dollars ? and Burge’s team accounts only for about 15 percent of that staggering figure.

    In 2013 alone, the city paid out $84.6 million in settlements, judgments, legal fees and other expenses, more than triple the budgeted amount.

    Police brutality in Chicago is not an exception, it’s not a shameful bit of civic history; Police brutality in the city of Chicago is the norm, the accepted means of rule over the people, especially the poor people.

    Offering up Cmdr. Burge as a sacrifice without his superiors, the prosecutors who used his coerced confessions without checking their veracity, and the politicians who knew but turned a blind eye, is meaningless.

  11. He got three years in prison, tops, for actually using torture to extract confessions from suspects, as a uniformed police officer?

    No fucking wonder the police think they can get away with anything.

    1. Sorry, 4.5 years, apparently. Whatever.

  12. so, hang on here.

    burge is convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice?

    what about the torture? did that somehow get left off the charge sheet?

    this is the problem with the us system:

    prosecutors are completely beholden to police. they need them and their constant cooperation in order to do their jobs.

    so when a cop is the defendant, they roll over like friendly puppies, fail to charge, and allow insane pleas.

    we need a 3rd party like an ombudsman whose sole purpose it to prosecute police misconduct. it’s the only way to get rid of the incredible conflict of interest.

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