Chicago agrees S$7.3 million payout for police torture victims: report

WASHINGTON - The Chicago city council on Wednesday approved a USD$5.5 million (S$7.3 million) reparations package for dozens of men -- most of them African-American -- who were tortured by police between 1972 and 1991, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Up to 100 men were allegedly tortured under former police commander Jon Burge in attempt to extract confessions, the paper said.

"This is another step, but an essential step, in righting a wrong -- removing a stain," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, according to comments in the Tribune.

"Chicago finally will confront its past and come to terms with it and recognise when something wrong was done and be able to be strong enough to say that something was wrong."

Many of the tortured men came from impoverished parts of Chicago's South Side and the city had fought their torture claims for decades.

As part of the reparations package, the city also issued a formal apology and said it might offer other benefits to torture victims including counseling and free tuition at local colleges.

"Chicago has taken a historic step to show the country, and the world, that there should be no expiration date on reparations for crimes as heinous as torture," Amnesty International USA's executive director Steven Hawkins said in a statement.

According to Amnesty, suspects were detained and then "subjected to horrific abuse including electric shocks to the genitals and other body parts, suffocation, mock executions and beatings -- all of which often accompanied by racial slurs, hurled by all-white detectives."

The extraordinary payment and apology comes at a time of heightened awareness in the United States around the ways police interact with minority communities.

Several major US cities have seen huge street demonstrations, some of them violent, following the recent deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of officers.

In Baltimore, riots erupted last week after the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died from spinal injuries sustained when he was arrested in a public housing area.