verdict is in: Former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge,
the torturer, is found guilty on all counts! But while
his Black victims, the Black community in Chicago, activists,
lawyers, and supporters of the victims celebrate, we must
keep in mind - Burge was not found guilty of torture.
Burge should have been found guilty of torture! Instead, a federal jury in Chicago on June 28, 2010, found Burge guilty on 3 counts of lying
about torturing Black men and obstructing justice.
There is not a verdict on torture. Lying about the practice of torture is still operative
in the U.S. Obstructing justice regarding the use of torture
is still in play.
sheriffs, police officers, civic leaders, stand-up citizens
in the old days, encircled their victims. A rope and a
tree, hatchets and gasoline, the flames and the flag and
tortured Black bodies testified to the persistent existence
of a national consensus valued above all else: violence!
Between 1973 and 1982, tortured Black bodies still testified
to beatings, cattle prods, radiator burns, plastic bags
over heads - all under the red, white, and blue flying
above Area Two police district in a predominantly Black
Chicago neighborhood. Commander Burge’s Midnight Crew
(any connection to the midnight crew from Abu Ghraib,
you think?) conducted a pogrom of torture in traditional
American style, in recent years, introduced to the world
through photos released from Abu Ghraib.
Burge should have been found guilty of torture but
for the government’s practice of obstructing justice and
lying about it.
use of force is power in the U.S.,
and it is a peculiar kind of force.
comes on the scene, dons his uniform and assembles his
weapons in the right environment, surrounded by well-wishers
and encouragers who assist the hero, who like most
American heroes, finds a way through law and around the
law, to get the job done. It
is no wonder that while more victims came forward, charging
the Chicago Police with the practice of illegal detention
and torture, the more the police department winked at
Burge and promoted him. It is no wonder that in 1977,
Detective Burge becomes sergeant, and four years later,
he is promoted to Lieutenant. It is no wonder that in
1986, he is flying as high as the flag as Commander of
the Bomb and Arson Unit. However long the abused screamed
for justice, Burge was shielded from justice
by the well-wishers and encourages lead by Richard M.
Daley, the then current Mayor of Chicago, and the son
of Old “shoot to kill” Daley.
cases of police abuse come before the Chicago Police Superintendent
while Daley Jr. served as State’s Attorney of Cook County
between 1981 and 1988, but Daley is not alarmed. He does
not order an immediate investigation of the Midnight Crew.
He does not see a need to do so. Some of the victims,
as we are learning, are a talkative and therefore troublesome
bunch for the arrogant and powerful. As of this date,
Mayor Daley is silent on the verdict, as silent as he
was during his tenure as State’s Attorney. After all these
years, it is safe to say that the use of torture has
value in the U.S. because it has served to secure
and protect what is most valued in this nation - at whatever
cost. Ask the Indigenous Americans. The “systematic,”
“methodical,” “psychological techniques,” and “planned
torture,” committed by Burge and his Midnight Crew (1990
Goldston Report) is the right of the powerful to execute
in 1993 for torturing a man accused of killing a policeman,
Burge escapes the justice that usually hunts down
and crushes the often innocent Black. One hundred and
thirty-five mostly men and some women and all of their
family members witnessed the spectacle of a 4-year investigation
end in 2006 with the conclusion that, according to the
Chicago Tribune, June 28, 2010, the “statue of limitations
on the claims of abuse had long passed.” Go home free,
Jon Burge! Justice for the powerful has succeeded again.
Go sailing in your boat named Vigilante!
U.S. Attorney Patrick Weisman said of Burge after the
verdict, “Jon Burge used lies and a belief that he was
above the law” (The Chicago Criminal Law Blog)
to escape charges of torture. Burge lied in 2003 when
he was asked if the charge of torture were true. Did he
practice torture? Did he witness torture? Why, me!
Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald pursued the case in 2008,
charging Jon Burge with perjury, if not torture. For Fitzgerald,
according to DemocraticUnderground.com, the “the
jury’s decision was a measure of justice.” But is it even
a measure of justice? At 62 years old and suffering
from prostate cancer, Burge may not see a day behind bars.
Justice for Burge will speak softly and with compassion
about a man who has “suffered” enough and who is “suffering”
and cannot, after all, “suffer” the indignities of living
behind bars for the remaining time he has on this Earth.
And what will it mean for Burge to be behind bars now,
nearly 30 years after he began his torture pogrom, while
the practice of torture is free to hunt down other victims?
need to have it on the record that this happened,” Fitzgerald
said. “We need to treat it as a fact that it was proved
and recognize that it was an awful thing before we can
move forward,” said Fitzgerald (DemocraticUnderground.com).
what is it that will be “recognized”?
some, money, that is, the financial cost of defending
Jon Burge. “The torture scandal sent innocent men to prison,
tarnished the reputations of the Police department and
the Cook County state’s attorney’s office and led to blanket
commutations that emptied the state’s death row as well
as repeated lawsuits that drained millions in taxpayer
dollars from the city” (ChicagoTribune.com). The
city in Pax Americana spent taxpayer’s dollars
to pay for Burge’s defense and his pension, according
to Flint Taylor with the People’s Law Office (Democracy
Now!, June 29, 2010). The Fraternal Order of Police
contributed to the defense of Burge and possibly will
continue to do so if there is an appeal.
is it only about taxpayer’s dollars? Will someone end
this farce because more taxpayer’s dollars are at stake?
What of substance, of transformative value, is to be “recognized”
that is not “recognized” already, in fact, conveniently
concealed in generalized psycho-babble about “everyone,”
“all human beings.”
radio host and journalist Earl Caldwell noted on the air
July 2, 2010 how the story of Brooklyn man, Michael Mineo,
who charged New
York police with using a baton to sexually abuse him in
a subway last October 2008 involves “psycho-sexual madness.”
It is about history, Caldwell
said, “you can’t run away from it.” Oh, but the American
public does at every chance it receives to transform.
It will all come crumbling down, if the American public
recognizes these post-racial incidents of seemingly
bizarre behavior as a historical pattern in the use of
is not just about a man named Jon Burge nor is it limited
to a particular police department. In the U.S., what population
of men is feared most by another?
to testify as an expert witness at Burge’s trial, Dr.
Robert Kirschner, a key contributor to The Manual on
Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and
Other Cruel and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment,
certainly offered what could be recognized as a motive
for what Caldwell
calls “psycho-sexual madness.” In People v. Darryl Cannon
(November 1999), the Examiner questions Kirschner:
the power and wealth in the world is not enough. Even
after the victim’s physical scars become invisible, a
“marked regression” remains and that is worth more than
glitch is what happened in Chicago
when a few Black victims refused to forget why their bodies
transform subway platform, or schools, or dark street
corner or cell block or Burge’s hole in Area Two into
modern-day Pax Americana “coliseums.”
verdict on lying about torture is about America
and the value it places on the right to torture those
it fears. The verdict has freed America
again to lie to itself about itself and continue to obstruct
justice. It is a verdict about how American can never
recognize itself so long as it remains silent about why
and how it functions as if it is always midnight in
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD,
has been a writer for over thirty years of commentary,
resistance criticism and cultural theory, and short stories
with a Marxist sensibility to the impact of cultural narrative
violence and its antithesis, resistance narratives. With
entrenched dedication to justice and equality, she has
served as a coordinator of student and community resistance
projects that encourage the Black Feminist idea of an
equalitarian community and facilitator of student-teacher
communities behind the walls of academia for the last
twenty years. Dr. Daniels holds a PhD in Modern American
Literatures, with a specialty in Cultural Theory (race,
gender, class narratives) from Loyola
University, Chicago. Click here
to contact Dr. Daniels.