No amount of money can make up for what happened to the 57 men brutally tortured by Chicago police in the 1970s and 1980s. Nonetheless, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced that these – mostly Black – victims will be paid reparation money from a fund of $5.5 million.
Tortured by and powerless in a system of corruption under former police commander Jon Burg, their suffering and the impact on their families is now being acknowledged. The fund will also be used to provide college scholarships for grandchildren of victims, psychological care for victims and families, and a memorial recognizing victims.
Jon Burg was fired in 1993 and eventually charged with obstruction of justice and lying about police torture. Allegations were made that Burg was behind the coercion of confessions through torture for decades.
Though the sentiment of the payouts is a hopeful bridge to begin healing relations between the police force and the community, tensions between these groups continues to run high. Emanuel told the Chicago Times, “Reparation is not a necessity. But it is a moral compunction and a moral reckoning to right a wrong. There is no statute of limitations on that.” A new police board put into place by Emanuel is another attempt at addressing the criticisms of the city’s treatment of minorities.
Under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, Chicago has been under extra scrutiny since the release of a video in November of an officer shooting a Black teenager 16 times. Daily protests call for Emanuel’s resignation and an end to what is considered by many a system of racist violence.
This delayed recognition of victims underscores the current national focus on police treatment of minorities. Though the payouts will offer little comfort to victims of more recent shootings, this attempt to heal the past shows just how far power and brutality can go when we look the other way and how crucial it is to keep looking now.