Thursday, October 2, 2014

Put 'Burge' name up with 'Capone' as those who '"got away" with something

By the time you read this, one-time Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge will be a free man. For some of you, that thought is bound to cause a knot in your stomach.

For Burge is the police official who wound up doing some prison time because of allegations that he and the officers under his command at the then-Pullman Area detective unit were overzealous in their use of force when interrogating criminal suspects.

SOME WILL EASILY say their conduct amounted to torture. It easily is a stain on the reputation of the Chicago Police Department as despicable as any other moment in that department's history.

As it turned out, Burge didn't go to prison because people got tortured. By the time anyone got around to seriously investigating Burge's conduct, the statute of limitations had long passed.

But in a lawsuit about the conduct, Burge denied he did anything improper. That led to a court deciding that Burge had committed perjury. Just like Al Capone being nailed for income tax evasion, rather than for any of the crimes his organization committed that made the Roarin' 20's so wild in Chicago.

All of which is why Burge has spent the past three-and-a-half years at a federal correctional facility in North Carolina. But his actual incarceration ended Thursday. He was sent to a half-way house in Tampa, Fla., as part of the standard process of shifting an inmate back to regular society.

THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE reported that it was possible officials could decide that Burge shouldn't have to do any time at the half-way house, but instead could return to his home in Apollo Beach, Fla., right away.

He'd have to wear one of those ankle bracelets and know that federal officials were constantly watching his movement. But still, he'd be home -- in the place to which he retired after he was fired from the Chicago Police Department back in the early 1990s.

That is the fact that has some people all outraged. They would have wanted some sort of perpetual incarceration, or punishment that was life-lasting -- although I'm sure the fact that Burge can't call himself a police officer any longer is a sort of punishment to him.

They're also the ones who are upset that Burge continues to get a pension of about $4,000 per month -- he's not going to be destitute. All because the act of perjury that resulted in a criminal conviction and incarceration occurred AFTER he was removed from the Police Department.

ACTIVIST TYPES WERE expected to be at City Hall on Thursday to protest in favor of the City Council passing a measure that would allow for reparations payments, so to speak, to people who are tortured by police. Although I suspect it would wind up only applying to future incidents, and wouldn't result in any of Burge's victims -- who have cost city and county officials millions of dollars in lawsuits -- getting any additional money.

It's probably for the best that Burge is now off in Florida enjoying a retiree's fate. Because we probably would wind up seeing the public do something stupid to seek retribution if he ever tried to come back to Chicago.

Because this is going to be a case that some of us will never get over, while the bulk of us do a long simmer in the frying pan of life to try to burn away our disgust with the sense that the police officer "got away" with something serious.


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