Former Chicago Police commande Jon Burge. | Charles Rex Arbogast~AP file photo
Updated: July 25, 2012 6:41AM
June is Torture Awareness Month, as declared by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, so let’s review a little local torture history:
Forty years ago this month, a Chicago Police officer named Jon Burge was promoted to detective. Shortly thereafter, he organized a cabal of Area 2 detectives who, over the next 20 years, tortured more than 110 African-American men into making false confessions that sent many of them to prison and some to Death Row.
Thirty years ago, State’s Attorney Richard Daley and his first assistant, Richard Devine, were informed by Police Supt. Richard Brzeczek that Andrew Wilson had been tortured at Area 2. Daley and Devine rejected Brzeczek’s invitation to investigate, and, as a result, scores of additional suspects were subsequently tortured by Burge and his men.
Twenty years ago, a Chicago Police Department investigative report that found that there was “systematic abuse” and “planned torture” at Area 2 was publicly released. Daley, then the mayor, attempted to publicly discredit this report, calling it “rumors” and “stories.”
Ten years ago, Judge Paul Biebel appointed a special prosecutor to investigate torture at Area 2. Four years later, the special prosecutor issued a report that found that Burge tortured suspects “with impunity,” and that his midnight shift detectives did so as well. In response, Mayor Daley promised to apologize to the torture victims.
Five year ago, numerous aldermen condemned this torture as “embarrassing,” a “serial torture operation,” “heinous crimes” and “atrocities.” Ald. Howard Brookins subsequently apologized to four pardoned torture victims, but Mayor Daley had conspicuously absented himself from the proceedings just prior to the apology.
Nearly four years ago, Burge was indicted for falsely denying that he committed torture. In response, Mayor Daley added insult to injury by laughingly making a sarcastic “apology” during which he said “OK, I apologize to everybody [for] whatever happened to anybody in the City of Chicago in the past.”
Two years ago this week, Burge was convicted for lying about torture. He is now serving a 4½-year sentence while still collecting his police pension. The city continues to pay for Burge and his co-conspirators’ legal defense, and the bill to the taxpayers now approaches $15.5 million.
Last year, a federal judge decided that Daley’s alleged involvement in the torture scandal was sufficient to hold him as a defendant in a civil case brought by an exonerated torture victim. In response, Mayor Rahm Emanuel publicly stated that he wanted to “put an end” to the scandal. Subsequently, the City Council unanimously passed a resolution declaring Chicago to be a “torture-free zone.”
Yet there still has been no mayoral apology. Such an apology, sincerely offered during Torture Awareness Month, would be of real significance to the survivors of Chicago police torture, their families, and Chicago’s African-American community who were so brutally abused, lied to and then rudely mocked.
It not only would help make Chicago a true “torture-free zone,” but also be a significant step on the road to cleansing the city’s conscience of the Burge “culture of torture.”
G. Flint Taylor, a founding partner of the People’s Law Office, has represented victims of Chicago Police torture for more than 25 years.