Thursday, October 17, 2013

Will Chicago start spewing, get stagnated by, the “reparations” label?

It seems that some people want the stain of one-time police Commander Jon Burge to live on for a long, long time.

The future Chicago Police Dept. image?
Because that’s what’s going to happen if a measure introduced before the City Council this week ever becomes law.

THE ACTIVITIES OF the then-Pullman Area violent crimes detectives who allegedly abused to the point of torture the people they were arresting for assorted crimes remain in the news even with Burge sitting in a federal prison in North Carolina.

Because we periodically get the reports of the City Council (on behalf of the Police Department) and the Cook County Board (on behalf of the state’s attorney’s office) giving their approval to settle out-of-court various lawsuits filed by people who suffered physical torture anywhere from about 1972 to 1991.

Which is when the public outcry reached a peak intense enough that Burge finally had to retire. Ultimately, the only thing prosecutors were able to get on him was a perjury conviction – for his testimony during some of the civil lawsuits when he said he never tortured nobody!

Under the measure introduced by 1st Ward Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno and 21st Ward Alderman Howard Brookins, people with claims of torture would go before a to-be-created city committee that could issue them reparation payments that could consist of counseling, job training, help with tuition if they want to attend one of the schools in the City Colleges of Chicago system, and something formally resembling an official policy.

Will this CPD image be supplanted by Burge?
THE PART THAT gets my attention though is that history lessons would have to be taught about the extent of Burge’s activity on the Far South Side all those decades ago.

I can already envision the arguments we’re going to get from people who are going to want the worst possible spin placed on the incident AND from those who desperately want to believe that police are justified in using such physical treatment on people they want to write off as criminals.

Burge is going to live on in our collective memory. I just wonder if THIS is going to be the Chicago Police Department image that will overtake the conduct of cops at the 1968 Democratic Convention, just like that event overtook the police behavior at Haymarket Square.

Part of what bothers me about this is the fact that proponents of this change want to use the “reparations” label to describe it. That has already become a loaded term for those people who want to ignore the impact of slavery upon our nation and our society. My own stance on that issue is that reparations should have been paid to the slaves themselves, and that our nation should be ashamed of itself for not having followed through on that "40 Acres and a Mule" promise.

THEY’RE GOING TO gain some moral outrage over wanting to reject this idea as well!

It ensures we’re likely to never be able to overcome the emotional damage our city suffers from Burge if we’re picking up on such loaded terms. This could become a matter just as intense as those people who want to refer to the experience of slavery in this country as a “holocaust” – regardless of the fact that it is the wrong word to use.

It’s not that I don’t sympathize with those who suffered at the hands of people who used their official authority to abuse the rights of the public – or at least those people in the public they didn’t like much.

The past image of the CPD's violent behavior
But I can’t help but see the lawsuit settlements (WBEZ-FM radio reports that some $84 million has been paid by city government alone) as being the restitution given to those who actually suffered.

IF IT SOUNDS like I’m saying that someone who has a gripe should take it to the courts, perhaps I am.

I’m just skeptical that this latest measure will do anything positive. Which might be the real damage from Jon Burge to the city.

Creating an abusive legacy for the city that just won’t die.


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