City stops fighting 'credible' Burge torture cases

September 16, 2013 4:03:35 PM PDT
It's now Chicago City Hall policy to settle lawsuits filed by victims for what the city considers to be credible cases alleging police torture, as opposed to the old policy of fighting the lawsuits in court under former Lieutenant Jon Burge.

A week ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel offered an apology for the alleged torture of suspects under Burge.

"If it's a credible claim, then we're going to evaluate the strength of that claim," said Steve Patton, city attorney.

Patton said the change in how his office handles lawsuits alleging torture by Burge-led Chicago police detectives in the 1970s and '80s, began 28 months ago when Emanuel became mayor.

"We're going to take a realistic, hard-eye assessment of these cases as early as we can and figure out what is the best way to handle those cases," Patton said.

Unlike during the Daley administration when the city mostly defended the lawsuits, the Emanuel administration will settle credible cases, acknowledging the Chicago police committed such crimes.

"I am sorry this happened. Let us all now move on," Emanuel said.

"I spent 28 years from a kid inside of a prison," said Mark Clements, victim.

Clements, who says he will sue the city for his wrongful imprisonment, called Emanuel's apology "noble" but unnecessary.

"He did not have to apologize. It did not occur under his watch," said Clements.

During his 22 years in office, former Mayor Richard M. Daley, who was Cook County state's attorney when most of the Burge cases were prosecuted, would never apologize or take any responsibility.

"You can't hold me responsible. That would be like holding any one (person) responsible," Daley said in October of 2008.

"I think a number of things we've done in the law department are different than the way things were handled in the past," Patton said.

Activists estimate more than 100 state prison inmates claim to have been tortured by Burge detectives. Patton said he does not believe there are anywhere near that many credible cases and says his department will contest what they believe are bogus claims.


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