By Zach Stafford
On November 2, 1983, Darrell Cannon found himself in the Chicago Police Department’s Area 2 headquarters with a shotgun barrel stuck in his mouth as a white officer yelled, “Blow that nigger’s head off!” The officer pulled the trigger, but no round was fired, so he pulled it again. But the shotgun wasn’t loaded; it was just one of the tactics that the three CPD officers present that day would use in trying to get a murder confession out of their suspect. Another was applying repeated electric shocks to his penis and testicles until he finally confessed to a murder that he didn’t commit. Cannon served a 24-year sentence and was exonerated after his release.
From 1972 to 1991, at least 110 African-American men experienced similar forms of torture at the hands of CPD commander Jon Burge and the detectives who reported to him. Like Cannon, many of these people were coerced into making false confessions; more than 20 are still in prison today for crimes they may not have committed.
Now, over 40 years after this torture began, the victims and their families may finally get justice for the CPD’s crimes: Chicago is poised to offer what appears to be the country’s first formal program of reparations for police violence.