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Daley calls retirement bodyguard request ‘appropriate’

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Mayor Daley on Thursday defended his request to continue using Chicago Police officers as bodyguards after he leaves office — a courtesy that former Mayor Jane Byrne never received and considers unnecessary.

“There’s been threats all through my career. … The safety of my family comes first,” said Daley, who leaves office on May 16.

“I’ve been mayor for 22 years, and my wife has made a commitment [to the city]. … Former mayors received security appropriately. … It’s appropriate for every former mayor. Yes, it’s always appropriate.”

Daley refused to comment on reports that he had requested a pair of vehicles in political retirement — one for himself, the other for his wife, Maggie, who is battling breast cancer and remains hospitalized with flu-like symptoms.

Pressed on whether he had requested around-the-clock protection, Daley said, “No, no. I didn’t say that. The police department will handle that — not me.”

Chicago Police Department spokesperson Maureen Biggane would only say that “the Department is currently evaluating the need to provide a security detail for the Mayor after May 16th. A final determination has not been reached.”

Byrne, Daley’s political arch rival, took issue with Daley’s claim that “former mayors received security appropriately.”

When Byrne was defeated in 1983 after serving a single term, she was neither offered nor received bodyguard protection — and that was just fine with her.

“I expected it to end, and it did. Once you leave, you leave. You have to take care of yourself. You’re no longer mayor,” Byrne said.

“Even then, there was a shortage of police. It takes a lot of people to do it. They have to do shifts. And I didn’t feel physically threatened. I wouldn’t have gone back to Cabrini [Green, where she lived temporarily] like a big shot. But I knew I had to take care of myself.”

Asked if she considers Daley’s request justified, Byrne said, “I don’t think it’s appropriate in any way once you leave. As he said, there’s only one mayor at a time. There’s no need to give somebody protection for the rest of their life. I don’t see it.”

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed reported this week that Daley has requested around-the-clock bodyguard protection — and at least two vehicles at his disposal — to provide security for himself and his wife in political retirement.

Sneed reported that the mayor initially asked for five bodyguards. The request prompted the Chicago Police Department to ask the Secret Service to conduct an assessment of the mayor’s security needs. The determination was made that Daley needs security “for a period of time,” but it was not known how long that would last.

Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Shields called the mayor’s request ill-timed when a two-year police hiring slowdown has left the Chicago Police Department more than 2,300 officers-a-day short of authorized strength, counting vacancies and officers on medical leave and limited duty.

“We have an extreme manpower shortage. The citizens of Chicago can feel that shortage. To ask for five bodyguards is ridiculously excessive,” Shields said.

“If the department were up to 13,500 officers, it would not be a problem. But officers are working in one-man cars. Police officers can’t go to weddings and family events because there is such a shortage.”

A spokesman for Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel refused to comment on the mayor’s request.

During the campaign, Emanuel vowed to strip Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee, of his police bodyguards to usher in an era of “shared sacrifice” needed to solve the city’s financial crisis.

“There will be a shared sacrifice, including for Ed Burke and all the City Council. If Ed Burke has six police officers, that just can’t continue,” Emanuel said at the time.

Over the years, Daley has been the target of several highly-publicized threats.

In 2008, a vicious rant about the mayor’s dead son was included in a letter that threatened to torch the mayor’s Michigan summer home in retaliation for the police killing of a wild cougar.

Two days after the letter arrived, an arson fire that started near Daley’s house destroyed a neighbor’s multimillion-dollar home on Lake Michigan.

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