The city of Chicago has paid out $5.5 million in compensation to dozens of people who claimed to have been victims of police brutality decades ago.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that all but “five or six” of the 57 people whose claims of being abused were deemed credible received $100,000. The others had received previous settlements and saw those amounts deducted from their share.
The checks have been mailed 44 years after the “first known instance” of torture by a police unit led by former commander Jon Burge and known as the “midnight crew.”
More than 100 men, most of them African-American, have accused Burge and officers under his command of shocking, suffocating and beating them into giving false confessions, some of which landed them on death row. Burge has never been criminally charged with torture, but he served a 4 ½-year sentence for lying about the torture in a civil case and was released from a halfway house last year.
“Reparations is not a necessity,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the Sun-Times. “But it is a moral compunction and a moral reckoning to right a wrong. There is no statute of limitations on that
The Sun-Times reports that the latest award to victims is a fraction of the estimated $100 million that has beenpaid in court-ordered judgments, settlements of lawsuits and legal fees — most of it spent by the financially strapped city of Chicago and some by Cook County — over the years related to the torture scandal. The $100,000 payment most victims received Monday is a fraction of some previous settlements.
The payments mark the latest black eye for the police department in the nation’s third-largest city, which has come under withering criticism since the release in November of a video showing white police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014.
A months-long claims process for the payments included vetting by an arbitrator and by a professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Kent School of Law.
The reparations were part of an ordinance the City Council passed last year that also mandated a formal apology, the construction of a memorial to the victims and the addition of the police torture to the city’s school history curriculum. It also provides psychological counseling and free tuition at some community colleges. Some of the benefits are available to victims’ children and grandchildren.
One torture victim, Darrell Cannon, said Monday that the payments were only the first step toward healing the city.
“We still have a long way to go,” he said.
Cannon was freed after 24 years in prison when a review board determined that evidence against him was tainted. The Sun-Times reported that Cannon has claimed that Burge’s officers played a game of Russian Roulette with him and shocked his genitals with a cattle prod.