There are many ways to measure the legacy of disgraced Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge. There’s the alleged torture suspects suffered — a means of forcing confessions — at the hands of officers under his supervision. And the years those who were wrongly convicted spent behind bars. Taxpayers have paid a hefty price, too, as the city county and state settled lawsuit after lawsuit.
We learned in recent days that Burge died, at the age of 70, in Florida. A Vietnam veteran, Burge started working for the Chicago police in 1970 and moved up the ranks to commander. Stories of the violence committed under Burge — including beatings, electric shock, suffocation with typewriter covers and games of Russian roulette — began to surface and by 1993 he was fired. Years later, he was convicted of lying to federal authorities about his conduct and was sent to prison.
His death is a reminder of the price paid by so many in the wake of the torture revelations. Here are four examples:
Alton Logan spent 26 years in prison for murder before the lawyers of another man, Andrew Wilson, came forward to point the finger at their client. Wilson, who had just died, confessed to the killing, the legal team said. They said they couldn’t say anything before that because they were bound to attorney-client privilege while he was still alive. In the wake of that revelation, Logan was initially released on bond and eventually the Illinois attorney general’s office dismissed the charges against him.
The Chicago-based People’s Law Office, which handled torture-related lawsuits, calculates that the torture cases involving Burge and officers he oversaw have cost the city, Cook County and state of Illinois $132 million. That figure includes settlements and legal fees that were paid to individuals who said they were tortured.
The city of Chicago has paid $83 million alone in settlements related to torture cases under Burge, according to figures compiled by the People’s Law Office. The city reached one of the largest settlements — totaling $10.2 million — with Alton Logan in 2013. Logan had been convicted and sentenced to life in the 1982 fatal shooting of Lloyd Wickliffee, who had been working security at a South Side McDonald’s. Logan had taken Burge to court, arguing that evidence that could have proved he was innocent was hidden. The state of Illinois paid Logan $200,000 after he was exonerated, according to the People’s Law Office.
The city also paid out $10.2 million to Eric Caine, who had been convicted of the 1986 murders of an elderly couple. He spent about 25 years in prison until a Cook County judge tossed the conviction in 2011. He had alleged that detectives working under Burge tortured him until he provided a false confession.
In 2015, the Chicago City Council approved a $5.5 million reparations package for people who were tortured during Burge’s time with the Chicago police. The package include settlements up to $100,000 for 57 victims, said Flint Taylor, an attorney with the People’s Law Office. Victims who had already gotten settlements from the city for more than $100,000 were not eligible. Victims and their families were also eligible to receive tuition for classes at City College and could receive job training services.
The reparations package also led to the opening of the Chicago Torture Justice Center in Englewood to provide a variety of services to Burge’s victims and the community impacted by police brutality. The package also called for public school students in eighth grade and 10th grade to learn about the Burge torture era, according to a news release from the city at the time.
Burge’s police pension: $4,000 monthly
Burge continued to collect a his taxpayer-funded monthly pension of more than $4,000, according to the People’s Law Office. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan had previously tried to challenge the pension payments, but it was tossed out by the Illinois Supreme Court. The state’s high court ruled that the Retirement Board of the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago has the jurisdiction to decide if the monthly pension should be terminated.
“This opinion should not be read, in any way, as diminishing the seriousness of Burge’s actions while a supervisor at Area Two, or the seriousness of police misconduct in general. As noted, the question in this appeal is limited solely to who decides whether a police officer’s pension benefits should be terminated when he commits a felony,” the court’s ruling stated.
Elvia Malagon, Chicago Tribune, September 21, 2018, 9“4 things: The cost of Jon Burge’s police torture legacy”, https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-four-things-jon-burge-torture-chicago-police-20180921-story.html