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Aldermen: Nix Burge's Pension and Bring Criminal Charges

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Aldermen: Nix Burge's Pension and Bring Criminal Charges

Chicago aldermen are calling for new action over former Police Commander Jon Burge. Burge is at the heart of a police torture scandal, which has hung over the city for decades. Aldermen yesterday held hearings to talk about a report released last year, which found extensive evidence that torture took place under Burge. Chicago Public Radio’s Ben Calhoun reports.

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During the hearings, aldermen heard from victim’s rights attorneys, police officials, and relatives of alleged victims.

Bill Parker, a former police officer, was the first witness after lunch.

PARKER: This October will have been 49 years since I joined the Chicago Police Department on October the first 1957.

Parker told aldermen about a night in 1973 when he’d decided to stay late at the station.

PARKER: To stay in and do some reports.

Parker says he heard screams coming from a room-so he went to the door and opened it to find a black man slumped on the floor.

PARKER: I was shocked. See this man sitting on the floor with his pants and his shorts pulled down to his knees-handcuffed to, and we all referred to the radiator in there as Old Smokey because it was always was steaming-and he was handcuffed to that hot radiator. I was shocked. I never seen anything like that in my life. I never heard a human outcry like that in my life.

Parker alleges Jon Burge and two other white detectives were standing by the man.

PARKER: He was wimpering, crying, moaning... obviously in pain.

Parker says he was told to keep quiet about the incident.

And shortly after that he realized the practice was condoned at the station.

Because, as he told the aldermen, while he’d gone to the room, nobody else at the station reacted.

MITTS/PARKER: So you heard the cry, the reason you went into the room, and everybody else was sitting there and nobody did anything, they just kept going about their normal business, and screaming and hollering is going on in the building. Exactly.

Throughout the hearings aldermen heard from scores of people with stories about alleged torture.

Several aldermen repeatedly said they were convinced that the allegations against Burge and other detectives were true.

But the question for them was what the city should do about it now.

SMITH: Not another dime should be paid for Jon Burge.

Some aldermen, like Ed Smith, asked why the city continues to pay out millions in pensions and legal bills for Burge and others involved in the scandal.

Smith and others are pushing a resolution that would cut off money for Burge’s legal fees and pension.

But the council is still hashing out whether that’d be legal.

Another big topic at yesterday’s hearings was criminal charges against those allegedly involved.

Last year’s report on the torture allegations said there was credible evidence of crimes, but the statute of limitations for charges had expired.

Since then, there’s been debate over whether officers could be charged for lying about things that happened.

CAVISE: If one of the questions on your mind is, “Are these officers prosecutable for perjury?” The answer is a resounding yes.

DePaul Law Professor Len Cavise told aldermen if officers had lied on the record about torture in recent years, that could be enough to charge them.

CAVISE: Martha Stewart was not convicted of insider trading on securities. She was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice.

Aldermen heard from several attorneys who gave similar testimony.

And after the hearing, they said they’d work with some of the lawyers and pressure federal prosecutors to bring charges if possible.

One issue that hung over the hearings, but was barely mentioned, was the role of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley-who was Cook County State’s Attorney for part of the Burge era.

Daley is a major factor in any actions that might come out of yesterday’s hearings.

Whether the question is legal settlements or cutting off Burge’s legal fees…the matters would have to go before the full city council.

They would also be subject to the mayor’s authority and the city’s law department.

I’m Ben Callhoun, Chicago Public Radio.

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