Chicago schools to teach police torture

Eighth graders in Chicago Public Schools will learn, as part of their local history studies, how a police commander in Chicago tortured African-Americans in the 1970s, the Associated Press reports.

The City of Chicago has paid out more than $100 million in lawsuits and other settlements, issued a formal apology, agreed to pay tuition for victims and their families (most of them have been released from prison through the work of various community organizations, which are also part of the new curriculum), and taken other steps to improve community relations after the case of former Police Commander Jon Burge was put to rest.

The Chicago Public Schools ran a pilot program in half a dozen schools last year to teach the curriculum and this year will extend it throughout the city to all eighth graders and high school freshmen.

Burge and a group of detectives under him would torture blacks who had been arrested in order to get them to confess to crimes they didn’t commit. He would use a cattle prod to electrify them in their genitals. He would beat them with phone books. The torture went on from the 1970s through the early 1990s.

“With racial tension happening across the United States, this program allows students to have a comfortable forum to discuss (the scandal) and share their ideas,” the AP quoted Alene Mason, a principal at one of the six schools that took part in last year’s pilot program, as saying.

As part of the curriculum, students will also get to hear from some of the victims. “If you know about the past and the Jon Burges, then you can make sense of how some police officers still feel emboldened to treat us any kind of way,” said Darrell Cannon.

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Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.