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City Begins Disbursing $5.5 Million In Reparations To Jon Burge's Victims

By Mae Rice in News on Jan 5, 2016 5:06PM

The city has bugn disbursing $5.5 million in reparations to civilians tortured by former Chicago Police Department detective Jon Burge, according to a statement from the Mayor’s Office.

This is the first time a city has provided formal reparations for police violence, as we noted in April.

There are 57 living survivors of Burge’s abuse who were approved to receive payments, out of 98 applicants. The approval process was what Mayor Rahm Emanuel, at least, termed “independent.”

It’s unclear if more victims will be paid at a later date, or if the full payments have been made.

Either way, that “living” modifier on survivors is key. The lag time between the actual torture—which ended in 1993, when Burge was fired from the CPD—meant two families of deceased Burge victims were ineligible for cash reparations.

They instead received “non-financial reparations.” It’s unclear what these were, but the release mentioned several possibilities: free attendance to city colleges or other career training programs, and free counseling for mental health issues, substance abuse, and more.

"While the Burge-era may have ended years ago, today we finally and fully address the ramifications of his terrible actions,” Alderman Howard Brookins, Chairman of the City Council Black Caucus, said in the Mayor’s statement. “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.”

Darrell Cannon, a Burge torture survivor and one of the main spokespersons for the reparations campaign, said: "Reparations is only the first step to healing the City. We still have a long way to go. No one should forget that torture under Jon Burge took place with the knowledge and complicity of former Mayor Daley and former States Attorney Devine.”

One last interesting tidbit: The city’s Burge FAQ page explains to applicants that “The amount you receive will depend on how many other eligible claimants there are… That money [$5.5 million] will be divided evenly between all eligible claimants.”

This has practical underpinnings, but also means that Burge victims had financial incentives not to spread word of the settlement to fellow victims.