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Jon Burge and the ‘Midnight Crew’: Compensation and Repair of Harm for Police Torture Survivors in Chicago

Author: Prevail Bonga

Department: Institute for Policy & Civic Engagement, UIC

Advisor: Dr. Joseph K. Hoereth, Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement, University of Illinois at Chicago

Abstract: Torture of individuals within the Chicago Police Department has been an ongoing issue. Burge, working with a unit of white detectives who came to be known as the “midnight crew,” used electric shock, simulated suffocation, and mock executions, often accompanied with virulent racial epithets and attacks to the genitals, to coerce false confessions that formed the basis for wrongful convictions and Draconian prison terms including death sentences in at least ten instances (Taylor, 2016). From the 1970s well into the 1990s, Jon Burge and the Midnight Crew were found guilty of having directly participated in or implicitly approved the torture of at least 118 innocent, mostly Black men in police custody in order to force false confessions. Currently, there are a lack of explicit policies that support survivors of police torture. Although the Chicago City Council passed the "Reparations for Jon Burge Torture Victims Ordinance," which extended “nonfinancial compensation to them and their families in the form of free psychological counseling, job training, and college education, as well as inclusion of the torture cases in the public high school curriculum and a formal statement of remorse on behalf of the city,” there are still limitations (Losier, 2019). This research aims to provide additional and alternative solutions to already existing rules within oppressive structures. This review of literature examines depositions, court transcripts, interviews, media clips, and photos to demonstrate the gravity of what survivors endured, and what has and can be done to support them and their families. From the findings, it is evident that the Chicago Police Department was and continues to be complicit in the ongoing torture of survivors. The effects of torture by the Chicago Police Department are longstanding. In order to create an impactful solution, there should be a combination of expanding upon already existing resolutions, reconsideration of the CPD budget of approximately 1.76 billion dollars, and the involvement of community organizations, advocates, politicians, and others to reform the Chicago Police Department and their interrogation methods.

Keywords: Chicago, torture, police violence, Jon Burge, survivors, Chicago Police department, reparations, justice