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Jon Burge, the former Chicago police commander who routinely tortured people for two decades, has died at the age of 70, the Fraternal Order of Police confirmed Wednesday, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Burge’s time as a commander recalls one dark period in the city’s policing history. In January 2016, 57 of Burge’s mostly black victims were paid $5.5 million in reparations by the city of Chicago. Burge and his “Midnight Crew,” a group of Chicago police detectives, were accused of coercing confessions from over 100 people from 1972 until Burge was fired in 1993. The city had paid out an additional $100 million in settlements related to Burge’s actions and for legal expenses, the Sun-Times reported.

The numerous horrendous actions the crew carried out allegedly include electrically shocking the victims’ genitals using “alligator clips,” according to the Washington Post. They also allegedly inserted foreign objects in the victims’ rectums.

On May 6, 2015, men identified as victims of police torture at the instruction of retired Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge, stand to be recognized by the Chicago City Council.
On May 6, 2015, men identified as victims of police torture at the instruction of retired Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge, stand to be recognized by the Chicago City Council. Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

In 2010, Burge was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison for perjury after lying under oath that he did not torment his accusers. He was sent to a halfway house in Florida in 2014 to finish the remainder of his sentence.

The Fraternal Order of Police defended Burge’s legacy in his death, stating they do not “believe the full story about the Burge cases has ever been told, particularly the case that led to his sole conviction, the exoneration of Madison Hobley for an arson that killed seven people.”

Hobley was one of 14 black men sentenced to death after detectives working under Burge claimed he confessed to setting a house on fire in 1987, an incident that killed his wife and infant son. In 2003, then-Illinois Gov. George H. Ryan pardoned and released Hobley from prison. Hobley received $1 million from the city in a wrongful-conviction lawsuit in 2008; in 2009, he was awarded an additional $6.5 million settlement.

Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was present when Burge’s death was announced at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, responded to the news, the Sun-Times reported.

“As a policeman, he did a lot of harm to a lot of people,” he said. “We pray for his family, because that’s the appropriate thing to do.”

Natelegé Whaley
Culture Reporter