The Chicago City Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to approve a $5.5 million reparations fund for victims of police torture in the 1970s into the early 1990s.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel had announced the reparations fund in April after negotiations with numerous stakeholders. The package also includes a public apology and and a promise to teach schoolchildren about the torture committed under the decades-long leadership of Police Commander Jon Burge.
Counseling services for victims and their families will also be provided under the plan, which was approved by the city council on a 42-0 vote. Before the vote, the names of more than a dozen torture victims were given a standing ovation by the council, the Associated Press reported.
"This stain cannot be removed from our city's history but it can be used as a lesson of what not to do," Emanuel said.
Burge was fired in 1993 after a police review board determined that officers under his command had tortured more than 100 suspects, many of them black men, since 1972. Among the methods used were mock executions, electrical shock, and burning, investigators found.
"Jon Burge's actions are a disgrace — to Chicago, to the hard-working men and women of the police department, and most importantly to those he was sworn to protect," Emanuel said in a statement announcing the reparations deal in April.
The reparations package comes after years of officials dealing with lawsuits stemming from the Burge era.
The city has so far paid more than $100 million in settlements, court judgments and legal fees related to the scandal, the AP reported.
Joey Mogul of Chicago Torture Justice Memorials and Flint Taylor of the People's Law Office — both of whom have represented torture victims and were at the negotiating table — commended the mayor in April for helping to bring the package to fruition.
"We are gratified, that after so many years of denial by many, that Mayor Emanuel has acknowledged the harm inflicted by the torture and recognized the needs of the Burge torture survivors and their families by negotiating this historic reparations agreement," they said in a statement. "This legislation is the first of its kind in this country, and its passage and implementation will go a long way to remove the longstanding stain of police torture from the conscience of the city."
Since the statute of limitations had long run out, Burge was never prosecuted for the abuse, but in 2010 he was convicted of perjury for lying about it in court.
In October, Burge was transferred to a halfway house after serving less than four years in prison. He has since been released.
Under the package approved by the city council, the city will also create a permanent memorial recognizing the victims of torture.
And in addition to the pledge to teach all eighth- and 10th-graders about the Burge case and its legacy, the city will offer college tuition and job training for free to torture victims, their immediate family members, and their grandchildren.