A crowded Council Chamber gallery prepared to continue years of testimony and demonstrations on behalf of Burge-era Chicago Police torture survivors was surprised by a last minute agreement completed only moments before the Finance Committee hearing that calls for the city to pay up to $5.5 million in reparations to torture survivors. Yesterday’s agreement amount was significantly reduced from the $20 million originally sought by activists and the victims.

The agreement negotiated between Corporation Council and activists includes::

  • $5.5 million Reparations Fund for Burge torture victims
  • A formal apology for the torture from the Council to be included in public record
  • Additional appropriations for:
    • Specialized counseling services to the Burge torture survivors and their family members, including a new facility on the South Side with a focus on torture counseling
    • Free enrollment and job training in City Colleges for survivors and family members (including grandchildren), paid for by City Colleges; Capped at 3 scholarships a year.
    • A history lesson about the Burge torture cases taught in 8th and 10th grade Chicago Public schools classes
    • A permanent public memorial to the survivors

Lawyers for the Peoples Law Office, who are representing the victims at no charge, say the fund should pay each of the victims up to $100,000 each.

There was no vote on the proposed measure Tuesday as there was not enough time to draft language. A substitution ordinance replacing Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno and Ald. Howard Brookins’ 2013 version will be introduced at Wednesday’s Council meeting. The full Council could consider the completed ordinance at the May 18th meeting.

Today’s hearing included emotional testimony from Burge victims, including Anthony Holmes, who said he was electrocuted and suffocated by Burge’s officers. “He broke me. Three or four times I thought I was dead,” Holmes said in testimony. Darrell Cannon, another victim, testified, sometimes in tears, that officers put a shotgun in his mouth and electrocuted his genitals with a cattle prod. “I had never in my life experienced that kind of pain. I looked at their faces, I didn’t keep my eyes closed. They enjoyed it.”

It is estimated more than 120 African American men and women were tortured at Police Areas 2 and 3 headquarters between 1972 and 1991. Because this fund is only for torture survivors, any claimants must file a waiver releasing any and all claims against the City of Chicago, even if they are exonerated at a later date.

The ordinance originally called for $20 million to finance all the redress, which mirrors the amount the city spent to defend Burge and other police, and Mayor Richard M. Daley in Chicago Police torture cases. Given the city’s finances, that amount was adjusted to $5.5 million, “a significant compromise,” says victims’ attorney Joey Mogul, whose firm has identified 118 Burge torture survivors.

The package is based on a Reparations Ordinance introduced in 2013 by Ald. Joe Moreno (1) and Ald. Howard Brookins, Jr. (21). It was co-sponsored by Ald. Roderick Sawyer, Ald. Ricardo Muñoz, Ald. Leslie Hairston, Ald. Ameya Pawar, Ald. Toni Foulkles, Ald. Lona Lane, Ald. Pat Dowell, Ald. Roberto Maldonado, Ald. Nicolas Sposato. Ald. James Cappleman, Ald. Rey Colôn, Ald. Walter Burnett Jr., Ald. Will Burns, Ald. Willie Cochran, Ald. Brendan Reilly, Ald. Michele Smith, Ald. Michael Chandler., Ald. Danny Solis, Ald. John Arena, Ald. Deb Mell, Ald. Emma Mitts.

Start time: 10:39 a.m. Members in attendance: Joe Moreno (1), Bob Fioretti (2), Pat Dowell (3), Ed Burke (4), Michele Harris (8), Will Burns (9), George Cardenas (12), Marty Quinn (13), Lona Lane (18), Matt O’Shea (19), Willie Cochran (20), Howard Brookins (21), Jason Ervin (28), Ariel Rebroyas (30), Deb Mell (33), Carrie Austin (34), Emma Mitts (37), Margaret Laurino (39), Brendan Reilly (42), Michele Smith (43), Tom Tunney (44), Joe Moore (49).