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Jon Burge, Chicago's Most Famous Corrupt Cop, Is Dead at 70

Credibly accused, but never actually convicted, of torturing dozens of people to force confessions

Jon BurgeJose M. Osorio/TNS/NewscomJon Burge, the former Chicago Police commander synonymous with the city's history of police brutality and excessive force, died Wednesday at age 70.

If you need to know exactly why Chicago's law enforcement environment is such a disaster, just google Burge's name. The disgraced cop even has his own Wikipedia entry documenting allegations of his abuse and torture across two decades of more than 200 people, mostly black men, in order to secure confessions.

He and his detectives have been accused of beating, suffocating, burning, and even using cattle prods and full on electrotorture to force suspects to confess. Here's a description of how Burge chose to behave as a cop from the Washington Post:

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.

"When he hit me with the voltage, that's when I started gritting, crying, hollering. … It [felt] like a thousand needles going through my body," Anthony Holmes told prosecutors during a 2006 investigation into Burge. "And then after that, it just [felt] like, you know—it [felt] like something just burning me from the inside, and, um, I shook, I gritted, I hollered, then I passed out."

Burge did this to get Holmes to confess to a murder (it worked). Despite all the horrifying stories, many of which were proven to be credibly true, Burge was never actually convicted for torture. He was fired from the Chicago Police Department in 1993, after authorities determined that he had tortured a suspect accused of killing two police officers, but the statute of limitations precluded charges. He was instead convicted of perjury for lying under oath in a civil case. He served more than four years in federal prison, but was still allowed to collect a $4,000-a-month taxpayer-supported pension while retired in Florida.

Meanwhile, Chicago has shelled out more than $500 million paying off claims of police misconduct over the past 15 years and has created a special $5.5 million fund specifically for paying off Burge's victims. The city has spent more than $100 million on settlements specifically on Burge-related allegations.

But if you're looking for some introspection from police union representatives, forget it. Dean Angelo, the former head of Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police, says we're getting Burge all wrong, and the union posted condolences on Facebook and said Burge's "full story" has never been told. From the Chicago Tribune:

"Jon Burge put a lot of bad guys in prison that belonged … in prison," Angelo said in the lobby of the Leighton Criminal Court Building. "People picked a career apart that was considered for a long time to be an honorable career and a very effective career. I don't know that Jon Burge got a fair shake based on the years and years of service that he gave the city. But we'll have to wait and see how that eventually plays out in history."

The grotesque punchline here is that Angelo was at the courthouse to attend the trial of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, charged with murder for shooting Laquan McDonald in 2015, pumping 16 bullets into the 17-year-old's body almost immediately upon arriving on location.

Chicago citizens were outraged with how the city handled it, concealing body camera footage showing that the official police story—that McDonald lunged at them with a knife—was a lie. A judge had to order the city to release the footage. There were five police cars on the scene, but only two had operating dash cams and none had sound. There's subsequently been evidence showing that police officers in Chicago have been deliberately sabotaging their recording devices.

McDonald's family has been paid $5 million from Chicago over the teen's death. To put it bluntly, history is already evaluating what to make of the behavior of officers like Burge, and the documentation is in the form of court settlements and mass exonerations.

Photo Credit: Jose M. Osorio/TNS/Newscom

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  • Adans smith||

    Please tell me he suffered.

  • NoVaNick||

    No matter how he died, he definitely did not suffer as much as his victims

  • NoVaNick||

    Reading this made me think that there really is very little difference between Chicago and third world cities-corrupt public officials, brutal police, rampant crime, and single party rule.

  • Hugo S. Cunningham||

    Some 20-30 years ago, I read an article that the Gestapo and the Soviet KGB learned many of their best modern torture techniques (especially using electricity) from major urban US police departments. US cops gained popularity for "solving" cases by torture, as long as the people they worked over had no political support, and it did not become too obvious that an innocent man had been forced to confess.

  • Paul L.||

    The Police narrative to defend Burge. He was the victim of a anti-police witch hunt and do not judge the Chicago Police by his actions.

    RIP Jon Burge
    A convenient Boogeyman for all sorts of crooked reporters, lawyers and professors.

    Used to smear an entire Department, 99.9% of whom never worked for him.

    May you find the peace that eluded you in life.

  • Wizard4169||

    They might be a little harder to smear without all the other corrupt and brutal cops in the department. And then there's all the cops who may not engage in corruption and brutality themselves, but overlook their brothers in blue who do. Passively bad may be better than actively bad, but it's still bad.

  • AlgerHiss||

    "Passively bad may be better than actively bad, but it's still bad"

    Oh no....this bunch is worse. They know they could arrest, everyday, one of their...."brothers"....on a felony, and they do nothing. Ask any cop when was the last time they arrested a cop, and you'll get nervous, twitchy, hinky laughs, as if you said something humorous.

    It's a question they don't wish to go near.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...Burge's "full story" has never been told.

    No doubt.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    And never will be, thanks to the police union.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    People like him are why so many believe in hell. Since there's no justice in this life, it's somewhat comforting to think that he's getting what was coming to him in hell.

  • ||

    Really big broomstick handles. With splinters. Forever. You're right, it's an appealing notion!

  • VOTE MILES||

    Rot In Peace, Pig.

  • SchillMcGuffin||

    I'm not sure "corrupt" is the right word to describe him. One can be a vile, brutal, fascist without ever taking a bribe.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Corrupt also means spoiled as in rotten, as in corrupted air. Bribery is just one form of corruption.

  • ||

    It could also mean swearing to uphold the law and then torturing people. Corrupted morally and principally.

  • SchillMcGuffin||

    That seems pretty broad to me. Perhaps more appropriate if he started out in the job noble and by-the-book and became what he is over time, though I doubt he's ever been notably "purer".

  • damikesc||

    Should we note that, while lamenting how he never got a fair shake, the union failed to actually explain the good side of him outside of him getting people in jall?

    If you REALLY think he was a swell guy...wouldn't you explain WHY he was a swell guy?

  • ||

    Should we note that, while lamenting how he never got a fair shake, the union failed to actually explain the good side of him outside of him getting people in jall?

    I found it actually rather telling. You know he was a good guy because he did what a cop is supposed to do without torturing anybody, except he did it with torture.

  • Procyon Rotor||

    What do you mean "outside of him getting people in jail"? HE GOT PEOPLE IN JAIL. He deserves to be canonized a saint just for that.

    (This is what police unions actually believe.)

  • Wizard4169||

    Putting people in jail was the good side. Because they were obviously bad people, or the police wouldn't have arrested them. And even if they didn't do the crime they were arrested for, they did lots of other bad things, and thus should be in jail.

    The really sad thing is, I know way too many people who actually think like that.

  • Uncle Jay||

    Shame on Reason!
    Jon Burge wasn't any worse than Beria or Himmler.
    What's wrong with you people?

  • Exsqueezeyou||

    "The disgraced cop even has ...allegations of his abuse and torture across two decades of more than 200 people, ...fired from the Chicago Police Department in 1993,...but was still allowed to collect a $4,000-a-month taxpayer-supported pension while retired in Florida."

    Man, if there were a real war on cops they certainly would not have forgotten to target this poster boy for the cause. Two hundred victims and no one retaliated? FFS that does not speak well for the commitment to the resistance. Looks like there was more resistance between the manacled hands and handcuffed ankles than by any retaliating victims or patriots for the abuse of authoritah. Shocking

    One would think a plastic bag over the head and tortuous shocking would be pretty motivating. Well, Burge was an unwitting pioneer in the field of tazing who likely lamented his inability to use the very mobile and efficient means of the tazer to elicit more "confessions" from "criminals."

    This country has gone soft on tyranny. "There's subsequently been evidence showing that police officers in Chicago have been deliberately sabotaging their recording devices."

    A lot of misdirected bullets flying in Chicago.

  • Mark Question||

    He made brown leftists suffer. He's okay in my book.

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    How do you know they were leftists? They confessed under torture?

    You are a faggot bitch.

  • Oli||

    don't cut yourself on that edge, buddy

  • AlgerHiss||

    Wasn't Burge gay? I mean, that's fine, but wasn't he into the lgbtq thing?

    Maybe the police union could confirm.

  • KiwiDude||

    For me the telling thing is that the cops could have just lied and said the suspect confessed to them. They would have been believed and the suspect would have been convicted. They went full torture because they wanted to / like doing it not because they needed to.

  • AlgerHiss||

    Put Burge in the same class as Robert Hansen....Julius Rosenberg...Aldrich Ames...Ana Montes...Hell, my own namesake...as they are treacherous, vile and treasonous.

    And trust me, their precious little labor union that will try to defend him, will explode at the notion he is with traitors and perhaps a hard-core leftist.

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