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Chicago police torture victims receive $5.5 million in reparations

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Nearly 60 people tortured by Chicago police decades ago have begun receiving $5.5 million in reparations from the city, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced on Tuesday.

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The news comes as Chicago faces renewed criticism for police treatment of minority suspects. Most recently, the family of a black woman who police admit was fatally shot by accident last month has sued the city.

Last May, aldermen in the nation’s third-largest city approved the payments to 57 people tortured by police in the 1970s and 1980s and agreed to make other reparations such as a memorial.

The torture, mostly of blacks, took place under former Commander Jon Burge, who was fired in 1983 and later convicted of lying about police torture in testimony he gave in civil lawsuits.

“We stand together as a city to try and right those wrongs, and to bring this dark chapter of Chicago’s history to a close,” Emanuel said in a statement on Tuesday.

The payments were announced amid almost daily protests over police treatment of minority suspects, following the release of a video in late November showing a white officer fatally shooting a black teenager 16 times.

The officer, Jason Van Dyke, was charged with murder for the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald, 17. The protests have included calls for Emanuel’s resignation.

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the city police department over its use of deadly force, especially against minorities. The shooting deaths of two black people - college student Quintonio LeGrier, 19, and Bettie Jones, 55, a grandmother of 10 - by a police officer late last month have increased tensions.

The use of force by law enforcement against minorities has become the focus of national debate in the last 18 months due to high-profile killings by mainly white officers.

The Jones’ wrongful death lawsuit, filed on Monday, follows similar litigation by LeGrier’s family.

The latest lawsuit said Jones was shot when she answered the door at the request of her upstairs neighbor, who had called the police because LeGrier, his son, had threatened him with a baseball bat.

LeGrier also was shot and killed, and his body fell on top of Jones’, the lawsuit said. It said Jones was still alive after she was shot, but the officer who shot her did not check her condition. Jones’ funeral is on Wednesday.

The city had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.

Reporting by Mary Wisniewski and Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn