From 1972 to 1991, at least 110 African-American men experienced similar forms of torture at the hands of CPD commander Jon Burge and the detectives who reported to him. Like Cannon, many of these people were coerced into making false confessions; more than 20 are still in prison today for crimes they may not have committed.
Now, over 40 years after this torture began, the victims and their families may finally get justice for the CPD’s crimes: Chicago is poised to offer what appears to be the country’s first formal program of reparations for police violence.
A long, winding legal road led the city to its reparations proposal. Allegations of torture by the CPD began way back in 1982 but only gained official notice in 1987, as the state Supreme Court considered the appeal of Andrew Wilson, a convicted cop killer who received Burge’s shock treatments. Wilson, who was ultimately found guilty, later filed a civil suit over the torture. During the trial, Wilson’s attorneys at the People’s Law Office received anonymous letters in CPD envelopes naming more victims. The judge wouldn’t allow the letters into evidence, and Wilson’s suit dragged on until 1996. But the whistleblower letters sparked an investigation identifying more than 100 other victims. Several more civil suits followed.