In January, after years of legal and political battles, the city agreed to pay $19.8 million to settle lawsuits by four men who were tortured by police under former commander Jon Burge. Signing off on the deal, aldermen condemned the abusive officers and hoped aloud that the settlements would let the police department start a new era. "I'm glad this is over," said the Fifth Ward's Leslie Hairston. "It's definitely a black eye on Chicago and on our history. But it's also an opportunity for us to get a chance to turn the page."
Maybe not. The Burge cases are only the most notorious of hundreds of police-related lawsuits the city has been forced to contend with this year alone. And though their cost to the city's reputation may not be as high, their financial impact is. By June the city already had paid out more than $62 million in 295 police-related lawsuits. Even if you deduct the torture cases, the city still spent more to close police suits in the first half of 2008 than it did for the entire year in 2007, 2006, or 2005.