Chicago council approves reparations for police torture victims

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Chicago City Council Approves Reparations Package for Torture Victims


(Reuters) - Chicago will pay a total of up to $5.5 million to dozens of people tortured by the city's police in the 1970s and 1980s and make other reparations such as a memorial to torture victims under an ordinance approved by the city council on Wednesday.

"We are strong enough to say we were wrong," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said after the vote. "Chicago will finally confront its past and come to terms with it."

The ordinance also calls for the city to provide psychological counseling, job placement aid and other services to torture victims.

Chicago and Cook County already have paid about $100 million in settlements and verdicts for lawsuits related to disgraced former Chicago police Commander Jon Burge, who was fired in 1993 and later convicted of lying about police torture in testimony he gave in civil lawsuits.

"Chicago has taken a historic step to show the country, and the world, that there should be no expiration date on reparations for crimes as heinous as torture," Steven Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said in a statement.

Hawkins said the ordinance will help set a precedent for holding torturers accountable in Chicago and elsewhere in the United States.

The reparations package was developed with representatives of Burge's victims, Amnesty International, the mayor and aldermen.

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Chicago council approves reparations for police torture victims
CHICAGO - JULY 21: Adam Turl displays his sign regarding police torture during a demonstration July 21, 2006 in downtown Chicago, Illinois. Demonstration participants protested the alleged police torture used when some members of the Chicago police department interrogated alleged criminal suspects. The alleged torture reportedly dating back to the 1970's and 80's, are crimes which have since expired due to the statute of limitations. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
CHICAGO - JULY 21: Pardoned death-row inmate Madison Hobley, who has said he was tortured by the Chicago police department, speaks during a demonstration July 21, 2006 in downtown Chicago, Illinois. Demonstration participants protested the alleged police torture used when some members of the Chicago police department interrogated alleged criminal suspects. The alleged torture reportedly dating back to the 1970's and 80's, are crimes which have since expired due to the statute of limitations. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
Protesters rally outside Chicago's City Hall against alleged police brutality and torture under retired Chicago Police Sgt. Jon Burge Monday, May 24, 2010 in Chicago. Jury selection is beginning in Burge's federal trial where he is accused of lying about the long-ago torture of suspects.(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Dardy Tillis of Chicago participates in a rally outside Chicago's City Hall against alleged police brutality and torture under retired Chicago Police Sgt. Jon Burge Monday, May 24, 2010 in Chicago. Jury selection is beginning in Burge's federal trial where he is accused of lying about the long-ago torture of suspects.(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Marlene Martin, left, of Chicago, participates in a rally outside Chicago's City Hall against alleged police brutality and torture under retired Chicago Police Sgt. Jon Burge Monday, May 24, 2010 in Chicago. Jury selection is beginning in Burge's federal trial where he is accused of lying about the long-ago torture of suspects.(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Joe Roddy, attorney for police officers, talks with reporters outside Cook County Court Friday, June 2, 2006, after a judge again delayed the release of a report from a four-year, multimillion-dollar investigation on allegations of torture at the Chicago Police Department. The report, delayed at least another two weeks, addresses the alleged torture of 192 black men in interrogation rooms during the 1970s and 1980s by a violent crimes unit led by former Chicago Police Lt. Jon Burge. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Kristin Roberts, left, protests outside Cook County Courthouse in Chicago, Friday, June, 16, 2006, demanding the release of a report on allegations that Chicago police tortured suspects. Allegations have swirled for years that officers under the command of Lt. Jon Burge in the Area 2 violent crime unit beat suspects, used electric shocks, played mock Russian roulette and started to smother a suspect with a typewriter cover to elicit confessions. Cook County Chief Criminal Court Judge Paul Biebel put off at least two more weeks the release of the four-year, multimillion-dollar report, saying he wanted to give the Illinois Supreme Court time to act on a former prosecutor's appeal. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
CHICAGO - OCTOBER 27: Aaron Cheney demonstrates outside the federal courthouse where former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge was attending a hearing on charges he obstructed justice and committed perjury for lying while under oath during a 2003 civil trial about decades-old Chicago police torture allegations October 27, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. Burge cannot be charged for the torture of suspects because the federal statute of limitations for the crime has expired. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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Victims' lawyers estimate that 120 people were tortured by Burge and his detectives but some of them have since died. Under the new measure, reparations from the $5.5 million approved on Wednesday would not be available for victims who have already had payouts from the city in civil lawsuits, but several dozen victims probably will be eligible, according to one of the lawyers.

Chicago has long struggled to build trust between police and minority communities. The approval of the reparations comes at a time of increased scrutiny on police use of force in the United States, particularly against minorities.

(Reporting by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Will Dunham)

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