Jon Burge, Tough Guy

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I watched Jon Burge testify in his own behalf last week at his perjury trial. I can only guess at what the jury was thinking, but I thought he was effective. The prosecutors made him out to be a bad cop. Burge presented himself not as a good cop but as a cop's cop, as a man who could both break eggs and make an omelet. "A man you'd want to have in charge" — as John Conroy put it on his consistently exceptional Vocalo blog, which has told us more about the holes in Burge's story than I'm afraid the jury will ever know.

If Burge isn't actually a cop's cop, other cops aren't lining up to say so. Out of sight of the jury, the ones who might have the most to say have been pleading the Fifth in order to stay out of the trouble Burge is in.

Jack Bauer, who shares initials with Burge, demonstrated on TV for roughly the past decade that it is possible to commit unspeakable acts, to go too far time and time again, and yet remain the good guy — a man who, frankly, suffers so much from his own conscience that whatever the feds do to him hardly matters. Only on TV does a torturer squint with disdain at his accusers and mutter, "I did what I had to do. Now you do what you think you have to do." But I wondered if there were jurors who didn't believe Burge's flat denials that he tortured anybody, or was even in the room interrogating men who later said he tortured them, but figured Burge's real message to them was "I did what I had to do" — a little mendacity being the tribute a cop's cop's has to pay in such a prissy world.

I spotted a post on a Sun-Times blog that reminded me how quickly the human mind can accelerate from worldly cynicism to ardent sycophancy when it surrenders to a tough guy's charms:

We ask men like Burge to keep us safe and then complain about how they do it.

I feel confident that nothing was done that was not needed and within acceptable limits.

Thank you Jon Burge for your years of service to Chicagoland. God Bless You!

Does anyone on the jury think like this?

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