By Don Babwin
CHICAGO — With three new settlements this week and more lawsuits pending, Chicago's price tag for legal claims against its police force is climbing and has already surpassed the $27 million the city set aside for this year.
The City Council agreed to settle three lawsuits this week for nearly $7 million. That's on top of the more than $32 million aldermen signed off on weeks ago in two police misconduct cases. With three more lawsuits stemming from one of the most shameful chapters in the department's history — the torture of murder suspects by detectives under the command of former Lt. Jon Burge — still in the legal pipeline and two more federal lawsuits filed this week, the total could climb significantly higher.
City law department spokesman Roderick Drew said the city now will use bonds to cover settlements, as it has done in the past.
The largest settlement this week was for $4.5 million to the family of 22-year-old Rekia Boyd. Drew said that Boyd was walking down the street on March 21, 2012, when an off-duty police detective sitting in his own vehicle got into an argument with a group of men nearby. Thinking one of the men had a gun as he approached his vehicle, the detective "started firing blindly over his shoulder," with one of the bullets striking Boyd in the head, killing her. "She had nothing to do with any of it," Drew said.
A second settlement, for $550,000, stemmed from a lawsuit filed by a woman who was injured in a traffic accident involving a police car.
In another settlement, the city agreed pay $1.8 million to James Andrews, 45, who spent more than half his life in prison for two 1983 homicides and alleged in his lawsuit that detectives working under Burge beat him until he confessed. Andrews was released from prison in 2007, and prosecutors decided to drop the charges against him the next year.
The settlement with Andrews follows another $1.8 million settlement last summer to his co-defendant, David Fauntleroy. Drew said that at the City Council's meeting this week, Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton noted there was substantial ballistics evidence that indicated that that Andrews was guilty in one of the slayings. But there was also strong evidence that he was tortured, Drew said.
Six cases in which men alleged they were victims of the Burge police unit that tortured black suspects in the 1970s and 1980s have been settled or gone to trial, Drew said. Three more cases are pending. Burge was convicted in 2010 of lying about the torture of suspects.
Aldermen said that while they believed the three settlements last week were fair, they're angry that such cases continue to come before the council. They said they still hear that the officers involved either remain on the payroll or continue to receive their pension, including Burge.
"These guys are untouched and unscathed, and they keep their jobs by and large and they keep getting a paycheck," said Alderman Howard Brookins Jr. "It has to stop."
Earlier this year, the city agreed to pay $22.5 million in the largest settlement in a police misconduct case in Chicago history. That involved a woman who was raped and severely injured after she was released from police custody despite her obvious mental illness.
In another case settled this year, $10.25 million went to a man who spent 26 years in prison for a murder he did not commit after Burge's detectives tortured another man until he implicated him in the crime.
Meanwhile, two federal lawsuits were filed against Chicago police this week, including one by Bassil Abdelal, who alleges police, responding to a robbery at his store last March, mistook him for a robber and shot him 11 times.
In the other case, Rita King alleges that after she was taken into custody following a domestic disturbance, an officer "proceeded to violently press his fist into (her) nose for approximately 3 to 5 minutes" according to the complaint.
Drew said he could not comment on the two lawsuits because the law department had not reviewed them.
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Copyright 2013 Associated Press