Court records shed light on Burke's bodyguards

June 28, 2011 8:13:20 PM PDT
Chicago Alderman Ed Burke says he still has bodyguards because of a court order issued more than 20 years ago. Now we're getting a look at exactly what is in that court order.

It took workers over a week to get the Burke bodyguard order and associated documents out of a Circuit Court warehouse. They arrived at ABC7 Tuesday afternoon.

Alderman Burke has had Chicago police protection for the past 28 years. As few as four, as many as six officers at a time have protected the City Council finance committee chairman 24 hours a day, driving Burke's city-issued sedan.

The 2-inch-thick stack of 1980s Cook County Circuit Court documents provide the legal history of Alderman Burke's taxpayer-paid body guard detail. The officers were assigned by then-acting police superintendent James O'Grady to protect aldermen Burke and Vrdolyak during the racially charged Council Wars.

In 1983, police reported 33 incidents or threats of various types against Burke. In 1984, there were 22 reports. In 1985, there was only one report. In 1986, there were three incidents or threats.

"I would rather [err] on the side of overstaffing than ever take the possible chance that a tragedy could result from not having enough personnel assigned to the task," Burke said at the time.

It was in 1986, after Mayor Harold Washington tried to remove Burke and Vrydolyak's bodyguards, that the aldermen filed a lawsuit.

Three years later, after Washington died and Richard M. Daley was mayor, the city and Burke -- who was still on the Council as finance committee chairman -- stipulated or agreed that Burke's guards supplied by the police department should remain.

But the stipulation that is legal basis for the Burke bodyguard detail says it is "subject to further directive of the mayor of the City of Chicago." That would to appear to indicate that the current mayor, Rahm Emanuel, on his own could remove Burke's four-to-six officer, taxpayer-supported bodyguard detail when Emanuel sees fit to do so.

Burke's security became an issue again in this year's mayoral election.

"Ed Burke today has six police officers. That just can't continue," Emanuel said during the campaign.

In its last dispatch on the Burke bodyguard story, the mayor's office said it was up to police superintendent Garry McCarthy to assess the alderman's security needs.

But one week ago, Chicago's top cop told ABC7 he didn't have the power to remove Burke's bodyguards.

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

"The court order is a scam...If Mayor Emanuel cares one iota about the public's tax dollars he will end the security detail for Alderman Burke," said Jim Tobin, National Taxpayers United of Illinois.

Burke himself indicated to ABC 7 political reporter Charles Thomas last week he may finally be ready to reconsider.

"Obviously a lot of time has elapsed and perhaps it's time to re-evaluate the circumstances. So you would be open to a re-evaluation of the circumstances? Of course, all the time," said Burke.

On Tuesday night, a spokesperson for Mayor Emanuel said a top-to-bottom review of the security needs of all city officials is under way. She would not say whether she agrees that Emanuel has the power to strip Burke of his bodyguards.

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