A little more than a month after Mayor Rahm Emanuel apologized for torture committed by former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge and detectives under his command, Aldermen Proco Joe Moreno (1st) and Howard B. Brookins, Jr. (21st) filed an ordinance in Chicago’s City Council Wednesday that would allocate $20 million toward redress to torture victims and their families.
The ordinance would create a commission to administer financial compensation to victims as well as a medical, psychological and vocational center on the South Side. In addition to providing victims free enrollment in City Colleges, the ordinance requires the city to fund public memorials and that Chicago Public Schools teach a history lesson about the cases.
These measures would be a step toward healing the “scourge of Burge,” Brookins said, which continues to haunt relations between the city’s African American community and the police.
The $20 million figure corresponds to the amount the city spent to defend Burge and others implicated in the police torture cases, said G. Flint Taylor, a founding partner of the People’s Law Office, which represents Burge-era torture victims.
“If they can spend $20 million on that, they can spend $20 million to set up a fund” to help the victims of police torture, Taylor said.
Taylor noted that Burge, currently serving a four-and-a-half-year prison sentence for perjury, enjoys a pension while torture victim Anthony Holmes does not have health care.
Last month, the City Council approved $12 million in legal settlements for Burge-era torture victims, and the mayor apologized for what he called a “dark period in Chicago’s history,” according to CBS Chicago.
Joey Mogul, a partner at the People’s Law Office and an organizer of Chicago Torture Justice Memorials Project, is optimistic that these developments mark a “sea change” in how the city approaches the issue of police torture.
“I’m hopeful that they will actually see the light and fully reckon for these horrendous acts and make amends,” said Mogul, adding that a petition supporting the ordinance will be circulated. “The least we could do is have a public hearing.”
Chicago Torture Justice Memorials Project seeks to honor and advocate for the victims, families and communities harmed by police torture through art exhibitions and other events.
The fight for torture reparations will continue on multiple fronts, said Alice Kim, Chicago Torture Justice Memorials Project organizer.
“It is lawyers doing their jobs, but it is also activating the community,” she said.