Chicago mayor defends actions in police torture investigation

Friday, July 21, 2006

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley says he will take responsibility after a report found Chicago police under the command of former Lieutenant John Burge tortured some suspects when Daley was state's attorney. But, the mayor made it clear, he blamed others for the illegal interrogations.

Mayor Daley was in San Francisco on city business when the special prosecutor's report was made public on Wednesday. He apparently spent time the past two days familiarizing himself with it because at his first news conference since the report, he launched a spirited defense of himself. He said he would never have tolerated police torture had he known for sure it was happening.

"Do you think I would sit by and let anyone say that police brutality takes place, I know about it and I would allow it? Then you don't know my public career. You don't know what I stand about it," said the mayor.

For the first time, the pressured Mayor Daley answered news media questions about his role in the torture scandal surrounding fired police Commander Jon Burge. Daley was Cook County's state's attorney for seven years during the 1980s, and his office approved at least 55 felony murder charges against black males who claim they confessed only after they were beaten, suffocated, burned and electro-shocked by Burge and his detectives.

"Many of our men, or sons, fathers, brothers are behind bars for crimes they did not commit," said one demonstrator Friday.

As demonstrators protested outside City Hall, the mayor attempted to explain this 1982 letter from then-police superintendent Richard Brzeczek expressing concern about torture allegations to then state's attorney Daley. The mayor said he read it and referred it to subordinates believing the police department had the ultimate responsibility to investigate office misconduct.

"It's up to the Chicago Police Department. That responsibility lies within them," Daley said.

"What did Daley do about it? Absolutely nothing. And what does the report say about that? Nothing," protestors said.

The special prosecutor's report released Wednesday morning absolved Daley of responsibility and cited former police superintendent Brzeczek for dereliction of duty.

Brzeczek told ABC7 he is being used as a fall guy by special prosecutors who are trying to protect the mayor. Friday, Daley refused to respond to Brzeczek's charge and shouldered at least some blame for the torture scandal.

It was not until his answer to one of the last questions that the mayor admitted at least some responsibility for the Chicago police torture scandal.

"Well, why not? I'll take responsibility for it. I'll say it. I'll apologize to anyone, yes. There's nothing wrong with that," Daley said.

Mayor Daley also said Friday he would not oppose the release of transcripts of his interview with the special prosecutor. Daley was reportedly interviewed about only one case handled by his office during the 1980s, that being the case of cop-killer and torture victim Andrew Wilson.

The special prosecutor apparently did not ask Daley about the other 54 alleged torture victims prosecuted by Daley's state's attorney's office during the 1980s.

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