Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the victims of disgraced former police commander Jon Burge began receiving $5.5 million in financial reparations today as part of a sweeping reparations package approved in May. These reparations begin to close a dark chapter in the City’s history and were approved by Mayor Emanuel and City Council in May after months of work and meetings with stakeholders and representatives of Burge victims, including Chicago Torture Justice Memorials and Amnesty International, US.
“Jon Burge’s actions are a disgrace to Chicago and to the hard-working men and women of the police department, but most importantly to those he was sworn to protect,” said Mayor Emanuel. “We stand together as a city to try and right those wrongs, and to bring this dark chapter of Chicago’s history to a close.”
The Emanuel Administration has worked diligently to address this important issue in the hopes that the victims, their families and the City can move forward. Since Mayor Emanuel took office, the City has worked to resolve open lawsuits from the Burge era that ended with his firing from the Chicago Police Department in 1993. And, in September 2013, he offered the first apology to victims on behalf of the City of Chicago.
In May, City Council approved the reparations package, which had been announced in April by Mayor Emanuel; Alderman Howard Brookins, Chairman of the City Council Black Caucus; Alderman Joe Moore; Alderman Joe Moreno; and representatives of a number of Burge’s victims.
After the reparations were announced, 98 individuals sought financial reparations. As outlined in the ordinance authorizing the City to pay reparations, claimants applied either through the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials or through Professor Daniel T. Coyne, a clinical professor of law at Chicago-Kent College of Law.
Chicago Torture Justice Memorials and Professor Coyne reviewed the claims and referred the claims that they believed were entitled to reparations to the City’s Law Department for its review. The small percentage of referred claims that the Law Department did not approve were then arbitrated by David Coar, a former federal district court judge. At the end of the process, 57 individuals were approved for financial reparations and family members of two additional individuals, who are now deceased, were approved for non-financial reparations.
"As we learned during our negotiations, reparations are important to bringing closure to the victims and their families. We worked to ensure a fair and expedited process that evaluated all claims equally and provided claimants an opportunity to present their cases to an impartial and experienced expert,” said Steve Patton, Corporation Counsel.
In addition to the $5.5 million that the City has set aside to pay financial reparations to Burge victims, the reparations package includes public recognition of the torture Burge committed and a collection of services to help bring closure for the individuals impacted by his actions, as well as their families.
Additionally, as a reminder of the injustices that occurred, and to ensure that they are not repeated, the City is acknowledging and educating the public about this dark chapter in Chicago’s history. At the same time that the City Council approved financial reparations, Council also issued a formal apology, and authorized 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 and their immediate family members. 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.
"While the Burge-era may have ended years ago, today we finally and fully address the ramifications of his terrible actions. Under Mayor Emanuel, we have seen Chicago own up to its past and find justice for those who were wronged by Jon Burge so we may move forward together as one city,” said Alderman Brookins.
“After years of delays, this 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,” said Alderman Moore. “It’s been more than 20 years since Jon Burge worked as a police officer, but Mayor Emanuel has proven his commitment to justice and accountability for all those who suffered so long ago.”
Alderman Joe Moreno added, in support of the package, "I’m pleased my fellow aldermen have passed this reparations package because we have a moral and ethical duty to help these victims and their families. We hope and trust that the healing and forgiving process can begin with the passage of this legislation."
Mayor Emanuel believes that building trust between officers and residents is an essential component to continue improving public safety, which is why he has instituted a series of initiatives and reforms to ensure past incidents of police misconduct are never repeated, and ensure that any incidents of police misconduct are responded to swiftly, consistently and with transparency.
Additionally, over the past four years, Chicago has seen a return to community policing, and a renewed commitment to partnering with residents and local leaders to ensure every community enjoys the same sense of safety. The Police Department’s CAPS program opened offices in each police district to help strengthen partnerships with community leaders, foot patrols and bike patrols were added to help officers better interact with residents, officers were trained on community organizing, and a new Deputy Chief of Community Policing position was created to tie all these efforts together.