Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Fighting a noble fight, but will she win?

There were many people who were offended when the board that oversees retirement and pensions for the Chicago Police Department ruled that Jon Burge was entitled to keep collecting benefits for his 20-plus years of service as a Chicago police officer – even though he will be reporting to prison next month to begin serving a 4 ½-year sentence.
MADIGAN: Restoring police respect?

One of those people appears to be Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who on Monday had her office file a lawsuit against Burge and the Retirement Board of the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago.

THE STATE OF Illinois is taking the position that the pension board blew it, and should have cut off Burge’s retirement benefits from the point in time that he was found guilty of perjury and sentenced to the  prison term – which was last month.

That pension board took the view that since Burge’s perjury took place during a 2003 federal lawsuit and he has not been a police officer since 1993 (which is when all the allegations of torture and abuse caught up with him and the Police Department found it easier to fire him rather than try defending him), his illegal acts were not those of a cop.

He may be an ex-cop gone bad, but the pension board didn’t see that as a criminal act committed by a cop; which would have required them to revoke his pension benefits.

Madigan’s crew of attorneys will try arguing that the state pension code says benefits cannot be paid to any person committed of a felony – if that felony is related to his service as a law enforcement officer.

SINCE THE LAWSUIT in which Burge committed perjury was one related to the torture and abuse allegations, and Burge’s false statements under oath were his denials that he or any officers under his command at the old Pullman Area detective bureau ever did anything improper, it can most definitely be argued that his criminal act relates to his professional performance as a police officer.

Now it is obvious that the spirit of the law would indicate that Madigan’s staff is taking a stance that truly is a no-brainer. She ought to win, big-time!

But it is not the spirit of the law that matters. It is the letter of the law. It’s not like the pension board’s ruling is out-of-whack with the letter of the law, which would say he was no longer a cop when his improper act occurred.

Which also means we keep coming back to the fact that Burge can never be prosecuted for the abuse and torture itself because the statute of limitations (these acts occurred in the late 1970s and into the 1980s) is long-passed.

THE BLAME CAN be placed on many individuals. There are those who claim Richard M. Daley, who once was our state’s attorney, should somehow have been more vigilant and nipped this situation in the bud.

Not like any of his predecessors were any better at rooting out this problem – which was easy to ignore because too many people were willing to believe that the people who were abused were nothing more than criminals.

Of course they’re lying about what police did to them. Even if they’re telling the truth, they probably deserved it.

Which is a sick and twisted attitude for people to have had back then. Or even today, because there are those who are convinced that any punitive action against Burge disrespects law enforcement.

THIS IS WHY I hope some court can be found to uphold the view of the Illinois attorney general’s office in this case. I believe it is the people who would accept such violent behavior who are the ones who lower our law enforcement to a level where it is not worthy of our respect.

Perhaps Lisa Madigan can help restore respect for the police with such a lawsuit.


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