Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Should this have lasted a little longer?

There’s a chance that we will stop officially thinking about Jon Burge, the one-time police commander on the city’s Far South Side who has long been accused of using brutality against those who wound up at the old Pullman Area police headquarters.

A City Council committee on Monday recommended a $7 million payment to settle a lawsuit filed by two men who claim they were tortured while in police custody by officers who were merely following the lead of Burge.

THAT SETTLEMENT IS likely to get final approval come Wednesday. The City Council could put an end to this fiasco that has lingered over Chicago for so many decades.

Burge himself could soon become just another inmate of the Federal Bureau of Prisons system – where he is serving time not for his violent actions as a cop but because he denied them during testimony he gave in a federal court case.

In short, perjury. Just like how Al Capone did his time in prison for income tax evasion – rather than anything he or his racketeers actually did in ratcheting up the violence in Chicago back in the 1920s (an image our city still is trying to live down).

The part of Burge himself becoming just another schnook serving time in prison doesn’t bother me.

YET AFTER ALL these years, I have to admit that a part of me is bothered to see this lawsuit get settled. Just like the Cook County Board earlier this year was eager to settle the lawsuit filed against it because a Felony Review officer working for the state's attorney's office didn't realize how flawed the evidence was in these cases.

For it seems that city officials were more concerned about preventing a deposition from being given in the lawsuit by the man who was Cook County state’s attorney back at the time that Burge and his cop crew were at their peak.
DALEY: What would he have said?

None other than Richard M. Daley, who went on to become the longtime mayor of Chicago and is now an attorney with serious connections (not bad for a guy who had to try repeatedly before he could even pass the bar exam in Illinois so that he could call himself a lawyer).

It really seems that city officials were more concerned about keeping Daley from embarrassing himself (and the city by association) than they were in providing the defendants with compensation for their ordeals.

WHICH INCLUDED NOT only their moments of police torture but the ordeal of a criminal conviction and decades in prison – before it was determined that the police conduct tainted the whole process to the point where it had to be undone.

Since the lawsuit is being settled, there’s no longer a reason for Daley to ever have to open his mouth and talk about the matter while under oath.

Which probably means we’re never going to truly know what happened all those years ago. The Burge name will forevermore cause certain people to smirk, and others the scowl.

The former will be the ones who enjoy the image of a cop “getting what he deserves,” while the latter will be the ones who think that whatever Burge and his crew did is somehow justified – and that the people who suffered somehow “had it coming.”

AS THOUGH ANYONE deserves to have a plastic bad placed over their head by someone who wants the threat of suffocation to serve as the impetus to providing a self-incriminating statement that made a cop’s job of getting a criminal charge against someone, anyone (who cares who really did it) all the more easier.

If anything, that latter attitude is going to linger for years. It may be one that we will never shake off.

Some people will be convinced that the real injustice was committed against the police, and that somehow the money that will be paid out in the settlements is somehow being wasted.

Which is nonsense. But it is the outcome that we’re going to face because our city officials seemed more interested in not doing anything to resolve this ugly situation, and were more concerned with just making it go away!


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