Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Violent Legacy of Chicago’s Police

Photo: Jon Burge, a former commander of the Chicago Police Department. Credit Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune, via Associated Press

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, NYT, APRIL 21, 2015

Rahm Emanuel inherited a Police Department with a history of serious misconduct when he became mayor of Chicago four years ago. Mr. Emanuel tried to break with the past on Wednesday when he co-sponsored a proposal in City Council that would provide reparations to scores of people who were systematically tortured by the police during the 1970s and ’80s under the infamous police commander Jon Burge.

On the same day, in a separate case that is still fresh in the public’s mind, the Council awarded $5 million to the family of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager who was shot 16 times by a police officer in October. The shooting spawned a federal investigation, rattled public trust and raised troubling accusations of a police cover-up. The Council’s decision to pay was made before a lawsuit was filed, but this cannot be the end of the case. The city needs to release a police dash-cam video of the shooting that it has withheld on grounds that releasing it might interfere with the federal investigation.

The shooting of Mr. McDonald, who was 17, brought back bitter memories of the days when Mayor Richard J. Daley and the Police Department ruled Chicago with an iron hand. Between 1972 and 1991, lawyers say, about 120 mainly African-American men were picked up by Mr. Burge’s “midnight crew,” shocked with cattle prods, beaten with telephone books and suffocated with plastic bags until they confessed to crimes. Mr. Burge was ultimately fired in 1993 after he was linked to a torture case. Statutes of limitation protected him from charges of abuse, but, in 2010, he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for perjury and obstruction of justice.

(More here.)

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