CN April 23, 2015


Stop the presses.

Flint Taylor, the prominent human-rights attorney who has for decades dogged former Commander Jon Burge for torture of prisoners at his South Side police district, had kind words for a Chicago Mayor today. After negotiating with Mayor Emanuel’s team, there was an agreement that Taylor called “historic.” The surviving victims of Burge’s abuse could be given a cash payment, along with a package of “reliefs”. Those include free education at City Colleges, the history of this torture scandal to be taught in the public schools in 8th and 10th grade, psychological care for survivors, a memorial, and a full public apology. “All those things are quite significant, and unusual,” he tells us.

Taylor said the negotiating teams “met five or six, seven times, not only with the Corporation Counsel himself, Steve Patton, but with important people from various parts of the Mayor’s administration. And during that process, I think we came into it skeptical, and we came out of it feeling, yes, at least around that table, there was some real belief that reparations was the human-rights thing to do.”

The package comes before the City Council on May 6.

If you’ve been following the two unrelated high-profile police-killing stories this week, you could be forgiven for confusing some of the details. There’s an unnamed officer who, video evidence seems to show, killed LaQuon McDonald on the southwest side with sixteen bullets. It turns out that McDonald was unarmed. And  there’s Rekia Boyd, who was shot and killed by off-duty officer Dante Servin, who, from his car, fired at a crowd of unruly partygoers outside his house when someone in the group, he claims, threatened him with a gun. The “gun” turned out to be a cell phone. Servin was acquitted this week in a remarkable ruling from a Cook County judge who felt that the charges levied against the officer by the Sate’s Attorney were inadequate and he therefore had no choice but to acquit.

Both of these high-profile cases will have implications for the Police and the Mayor’s office for a long time to come, especially because both involve high-numbers cash settlements with the victims’ families. If you’d like a crystal clear understanding of these cases, listen to WBEZ’s Chip Mitchell at the top of this show. Chip understands, and articulates, the detail in an easy-to understand way, and it’s worth watching.

By the way, Mitchell says we haven’t necessarily heard the last of the Servin case. “Servin’s not entirely off the hook,” he explains. “The Independent Police Review Authority is back on the case now, since the criminal case has been disposed of. So it’s possible he could face administrative charges which could threaten his job, even if he does’t end up in prison.”

And in the McDonald Case, there’s a dashboard video of the killing, recorded by one of the squad cars that responded to the call for assistance. But the police, the Mayor’s office, and reportedly the victim’s family all have insisted that the video not be made public. In addition, the City has not named the offending police officer.

“There have been two reasons put forward by the city officials  for why this dashboard video has been kept under wraps,” says Mitchell. “This is from Mayor Emanuel himself. He called it ‘central to the investigation.’ There’s an investigation involving both local and federal authorities and the FBI is leading it. And second, this comes from Steve Patton – he heads the City’s law department – the City’s contract with the police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, prohibits naming the officer.”

And finally, a class-action suit filed this week by six Chicagoans claims that African-Americans were unfairly targeted in the City’s recently-revealed stop-and-frisk program. “We’re talking four times as many here as in New York,” Taylor says, in reference to a similar, but we now know to be smaller, program there. According to the ACLU, in just four months last year, about a quarter-million stops were made here in Chicago, none of which resulted in arrests, but could have involved searches and other police procedures. Of those approximately 250,000 stops, 182,048 involved African Americans.


About Ken

Ken's the host of Chicago Newsroom. A former news director, reporter and radio program host, he's also a past Vice President of the Chicago Headline Club.
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