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Police torture cases from Daley era vex Chicago's Rahm Emanuel

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said this week that Chicago will pay to defend former Mayor Richard M. Daley in lawsuits alleging police torture during his tenure. Wrong message, say critics.

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A police torture saga that has cast a long shadow over Chicago City Hall for nearly three decades is resurfacing – and it is reviving criticism that the new administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel is too tied to former Mayor Richard M. Daley and the excesses of his tenure.

The murmurings began this week, when Mayor Emanuel said Chicago is obliged to pay the legal costs of Mr. Daley, a defendant in several civil lawsuits alleging that police abused suspects in criminal cases to obtain confessions. The cases allege that Daley is among those who conspired to cover up a systemic pattern of police torture when he was Cook County state's attorney, and later as Chicago's mayor.

The city is legally bound to pay for Daley's defense costs because he is being sued for actions that allegedly took place during his official capacity as mayor, Emmanuel said. It's not known what those costs will be, but there is no limit on either the amount or the duration of the city's obligation, says Jennifer Hoyle, director of public affairs for the city’s legal department.

The ensuing outcry appears to have caught the new mayor somewhat by surprise. Critics complain that, with a $635 million budget deficit, Chicago can scarcely afford to spend untold new sums to mount legal defenses for Daley and other city officials named in the torture lawsuits. Settling with plaintiffs, they suggest, might yield a more judicious – and less expensive – outcome. Moreover, Emanuel's announcement served to remind Chicagoans of the mayor's close ties to Daley, dating back to the days when Emanuel was chief fundraiser for Daley's mayoral campaign, and, some say, gave the appearance that the new mayor was acting to protect and defend the old one.

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