Former Chicago police lieutenant Jon Burge was convicted of federal perjury and obstruction of justice charges (we first covered this story when his trial first began).
Over his career, Burge had lied repeatedly about the torture of suspects. He testified at his own trial, denying he ever tortured suspects or encouraged other officers to do so. The jury found him guilty after deliberating for 3 days (see full story here).
In 2006 a special prosecutor’s report found dozens of men had claimed abuse, but no action was taken because the statute of limitations had run on many of the crimes. More than 100 victims have claimed torture that allegedly began in the 1970s and lasted until Burge was fired in 1993.
Almost all the tortured or abused suspects were black men. Burge was permitted to serve on the police force for decades despite allegations of abuse. When he was fired, no criminal charges were filed.
Although some may laud the fact that Burge has finally been brought to justice, it appears that the police department of Chicago utterly lacks accountability. It took the department decades to fire a man who was repeatedly accused of torture. The city of Chicago has approved settlements totaling $19.8 million to the various victims of Burge’s torture and abuse, but of course the wrongdoers themselves will not be footing the bill, taxpayers will.
Burge was sentenced to 45 years in jail, but he is so old now that he really isn’t getting what he deserves. There are no private professions in which an employee can commit abuse and torture and pass off the costs to taxpayers. In the private sphere, the individual would be fired, jailed, and likely would be sued for damages (or their employer would be).
Have you ever heard of a Target or Nordstrom’s employee torturing customers and staying employed there for 20 years? Ever heard of a cashier at Ralphs or Krogers committing battery on customers, staying on the job for 20 years, then forcing innocent taxpayers to pay the victims damages?
I haven’t. And if we did hear of such things, there rightly would be a public outcry, and it would be viewed as completely absurd and unfair.
Government should be no different. If anything, the government should be held to higher standards of accountability because it owes a duty to the people (allegedly). However, it seems the opposite is the case.
Only in government do employees have a free pass on torture and abuse. Police can use excessive force, and abuse victims, and keep their jobs, while taxpayers, not the police force, ultimately pay what is due to the victim.
Is it any wonder there is no accountability?