Ald. Burke's security detail draws scrutiny

June 21, 2011 6:10:35 PM PDT
Chicago Alderman Ed Burke says he will not give up his six-man bodyguard protection detail unless the courts tell him to do so.

Burke's security detail has drawn scrutiny at a time when the city's new police superintendent is scrambling for ways to redeploy more officers to street duty.

The City Council's finance committee chairman moves around in a city-owned sedan with Chicago police officers riding along as bodyguards.

"That's a result of a court order. There's a Circuit Court of Cook County order in effect that mandates that. So if it's going to be changed, it's up to the court," said Burke.

The order was issued in 1986 during the so-called "Council Wars" when Burke received dozens of death threats.

Over two decades later, he still has 24-hour protection including six cops covering three eight-hour shifts at taxpayer expense.

"The chairman of the committee on Finance of the Chicago City Council has had a police security detail since the 1940s as far as we can determine," said Burke.

With the city facing a $700 million deficit, Burke's security became an issue during the campaign for mayor.

"Ed Burke today has six police officers. That just can't continue," said Rahm Emanuel during a debate.

And with the police department an estimated 2,000 officers below authorized strength, the Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Pat Camden said Tuesday,"if we're going to look at where resources are available, then they absolutely should include bodyguard details."

"I am concerned about getting cops on the street. So I'm looking at everything we can do to get cops on the street," said Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.

But Supt. McCarthy said that the one thing he cannot do is take away any of the six police officers assigned to protect Alderman Ed Burke.

"It's mandated by a court, so I don't have the authority to change a court's decision," said McCarthy.

Legal experts say if the police department did take away the Burke detail and the alderman fought the move in court, a judge would have to review the now 25-year-old order.

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