The code of silence has protected some particularly reprehensible behavior in the C.P.D., much of it directed at the city’s black population. Perhaps the most egregious was that of Jon Burge, a commander who, in the nineteen-seventies and eighties, headed a group of officers that he called the Midnight Crew. To extract confessions, the crew tortured dozens of men, most of them African-American, using electric shock, suffocation, and Russian roulette. Last May, the city agreed to a reparations agreement that included $5.5 million for the victims and an obligation to teach the episode in the public-school curriculum. According to the Better Government Association, between 2010 and 2014 there were seventy fatal shootings by the Chicago police, a higher number than in any other large city. (Phoenix, Philadelphia, and Dallas had a higher number per capita.) Between 2004 and 2014, the city spent $521 million defending the department and settling lawsuits claiming excessive force.
Last March, after a seven-year legal battle, waged by Futterman, Kalven, and two Chicago law firms—Loevy & Loevy and the People’s Law Office—to obtain records of police officers who had accumulated repeated citizen complaints, an Illinois appeals-court judge ordered the records released. They show that, of nearly twenty-nine thousand allegations of misconduct filed between 2011 and 2015, only two per cent resulted in any discipline—and, of those which did, the vast majority took the form of reprimands or suspensions of less than a week. Moreover, while African-Americans filed most of the complaints, those lodged by whites were more likely to be upheld.