The union representing Chicago's police officers will help pay the legal bills of a former detective commander who faces federal charges of lying about the torture of prisoners, a decision called outrageous and racist by an attorney who has represented some of the alleged victims.
Fraternal Order of Police President Mark Donahue said the union's board voted this week to provide funds for Jon Burge's defense. Burge has never been convicted of anything, Donahue said, and there's no solid evidence against him -- only allegations from convicted criminals.
The union doesn't condone "the actions that have been alleged in this latest round of charges brought against Jon Burge," Donahue said in a statement.
"This fiasco only lowers the morale in the Department which is at its lowest levels in my 32-year career," Donahue's statement said.
Burge was charged in October with lying under oath on written questions in a civil lawsuit when he denied knowing about or taking part in the torture of suspects in the 1970s and 1980s. He's pleaded not guilty to federal perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges.
A message left by The Associated Press for Burge's attorney, Richard Beuke, was not immediately returned.
Lawyer Flint Taylor has represented several men allegedly tortured. He calls the union's decision to help Burge outrageous.
The decision follows "a 20-year pattern by (the union) of racist disregard for the actions of a known torturer and using honest police officers' money to do so," he said.
Taylor said witnesses against Burge have included union members, "black police detectives, lawyers and other people, as well as wrongfully convicted African American suspects who spent decades in jail for crimes they did not commit."
For many years, civil rights lawyers have accused Burge and detectives who served under him of beating and kicking individuals they were interrogating, as well as using electric shocks to force them to confess.
Two years ago, two court-appointed special prosecutors found that scores of black suspects were tortured at the South Side's Area 2 deuektive headquarters that Burge commanded. But they said the cases were too old to bring criminal charges.
Burge is charged with lying about the alleged torture just five years ago, in a lawsuit filed by former Death Row prisoner Madison Hobley.