Many of the issues Chicago’s residents have with local police department were established over decades of mistreatment and questionable practices. One of the most egregious examples of which will soon become a part of the Chicago Public School curriculum.
Jon Burge was a commander in the Chicago Police Department who was convicted after it was found he and officers under his watch tortured citizens.
For decades, Black and Latino citizens were beaten, had guns held to their heads, were suffocated with plastic bags and even electrocuted for confessions. Many of the confessions that came from these torture sessions were false. In the early 1990s, Burge was fired.
Chicago has worked to repair its image among the public in years following Burge’s conviction. One of the pillars of its rebranding efforts was passing a $5.5 million reparations package for torture survivors. The Chicago Tribune reports that the city has paid out more than $111 million to those impacted by Burge’s torture practices.
Chicago Public Schools is taking a bold step by introducing the torture scandal to students as a study into the socioeconomic factors that led to it and the effects it had on local politics for years.
“The torture and other abuse committed by Burge and officers under his command are a disgrace to the City and to the hard-working men and women of the Chicago Police Department,” a 10th grade unit overview states, according to Chicago Tonight. “To remind the City of the injustices that occurred and to ensure that they are not repeated, the City will acknowledge and educate the public about this dark chapter in Chicago’s history.”
Teachers will be meeting until early May to discuss the curriculum of a class currently titled “Reparations Won: A Case Study in Police Torture, Racism And the Movement for Justice in Chicago.” CPS documents state that it will be a three-to-five week course for 8th and 10th graders beginning next school-year.
“It was groundbreaking in that teachers don’t expect to have to tackle something that has been a part of the media for such a long period of time,” said Marinda Kennedy, a guidance counselor at Amundsen High School who attended a professional development session Tuesday. “I think this is going to be really good for them. It’s unlike things that I’ve seen.”
Many in the same neighborhoods who were plagued by Burge’s cruelty are still working to trust local police. The murder of Laquan McDonald by former Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke and city’s suspected cover up of it is one of the many instances that further damage that relationship.
Hopefully providing this information in local schools will foster some kind of change in the way policing is done in the city.