A History of Brutality, Racism,
and Corruption in the

Jon Burge and Torture

by Joseph Lipari

Jon Burge grew up in the predominately Irish neighborhoods of South Chicago.  He failed out of college and volunteered twice to go to Vietnam as a military policeman.  Upon his return, he joined the Chicago Police Department in 1973 at the age of 22.  From his military experience in Vietnam, Burge brought to Chicago the tools and techniques of torture such as the electric shock producing “Tucker Telephone” and elaborate mock executions of prisoners. 

Burge quickly rose through the ranks and by the early 1980s was a commander in the South Side’s Area 2 police district.  He moved to Area 3 in the late 1980s.  Over approximately 15 years, at least 101 young African American men were tortured by numerous Chicago police, much of it under the direction or with direct involvement of Commander Burge.  The model set by Burge produced a pattern of torture found by investigators to be “systematic,” “methodical abuse” including “esoteric… psychological techniques and planned torture.” 

In February of 1982, three policemen were killed in shootings by civilians, prompting an unprecedented man hunt and repressive crackdown on young black men in Chicago.  Burge’s unit apprehended Andrew Wilson, a suspect in one of the shootings that killed an officer.  When they attempted to transfer him to county jail, Wilson had been so badly beaten, with evidence of radiator and electrical burns all over his body (including genitalia), that the county jail authorities refused to admit him without first being examined by a doctor. 

Police Superintendent Richard Brzeczek was notified of the evidence and sent a letter detailing the incident to State’s Attorney Richard M. Daley (the former mayor’s son and future mayor), acknowledging that top officers knew what had happened, and called for an outside investigation.  Daley never replied to Supt. Brzeczek’s request. 

According to Brzeczek, “This was not a legal decision, but a political decision.  They chose to ignore it.”  Even as evidence of scores of cases of police torture and lawsuits began to pile up, many white Chicago policemen continued to staunchly defend Burge and his co-defendants.  Finally, in 1993, due to the political and financial liability that Burge had become, the city chose to fire Burge.  The city continues to refuse to acknowledge any systematic pattern of abuse, despite settling numerous civil lawsuits.  Burge now lives in comfortable retirement in a golf and beach resort town in Apollo Beach, Florida.  He continues to collect a pension from the city of Chicago. 


Torture Frequency Chart
CPD Areas #2 and #3

Known Victims 101
African American 101
During Interrogation 100
Area # 2 1972-1987 80
Area # 3 1988-1991 20
Combined Areas 2&3 1990 1
Beatings with: All Objects 91
Phone Book 13
Flashlight 20
Blackjack/Nightstick 7
Rubber Hose/Pipe 3
Shotgun Butt 1
Ashtray 1
Bat 1
Newspapet 1
Assault on Genitals 36
Shockings 23
Baggings 23
Mock Executions/gun threats 20
Racial Epithets 18
Chokings/Gaggings 4
Burnings 3
Ear Cuppings/Pressure 3

Chicago Reader Article on Burge

Chicago Tribune Series on Burge
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