Reading, writing and torture: CPS kids to learn about Jon Burge cases

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Call it reading, writing and torture.

Chicago Public Schools students this year will learn about a dark, and controversial era of the city’s history, with 8th and 10th-graders citywide assigned to study a new curriculum detailing the allegations of torture by Chicago Police detectives under the command of Jon Burge.

The new curriculum was developed as part of the settlement with victims who alleged they were beaten, suffocated and electrocuted by Burge’s “midnight crew” in the 1980s and 1990s – allegations city officials long denied during decades of litigation before passing a reparations ordinance last year.

“Any time you have incidents of that nature occur, you can’t begin to heal and to fix it unless you acknowledge it,” CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson said Monday at a press conference at Chicago Public Schools Central Office, where he stood alongside CPS CEO Forrest Claypool and Anthony Holmes and Darrell Cannon.

Cannon and Holmes were among the more than 100 African-American defendants who said Burge and his subordinates tortured them into confessions. Holmes, who was convicted of murder in 1973 and spent 30 years in prison, said he only confessed to a killing he did not commit after Burge suffocated him and shocked him with a “black box” built to electrocute suspects. Holmes later testified against Burge when the detective was on trial for perjury in federal court. Burge was convicted in that case and sentenced to four years in prison for lying about abusing suspects.

Cannon, on Monday, maintained that the Burge curriculum, rolled out as a pilot program last year, is not intended as “cop-bashing.”

“Please know that this curriculum has never been about police-bashing. Never, ever, ever,” Cannon said.
“It is only dealing with what was happening in the past and to make sense of what is happening now. If we knew about he 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.”


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