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Ald. Burke: Private eye licensed to carry semiautomatic weapon

Ald. Ed Burke (14th)

Ald. Ed Burke (14th)

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Updated: January 20, 2013 6:29AM

It might surprise some citizens that, in addition to being Chicago’s most powerful alderman, Ed Burke is a private eye.

Ald. Burke (14th), who chairs the influential City Council Finance Committee is, according to state records, a licensed private detective, trained and authorized to carry a semiautomatic weapon.

Burke also is a licensed private security contractor.

He is approved by Illinois statute to carry a gun while “in the performance of his . . . duties” and carry it “to and from” his place of employment.

Where is that place of employment?

Burke’s application is silent on that except to say that Ed Burke employs Ed Burke.

Burke also was trained — and approved — in 1999 to use a shotgun and rifle.

According to state records, Burke completed his most recent firearms training course in December 2011 and has a gun range score of 97 percent when tested in the use of a revolver and a semiautomatic weapon.

The Chicago Sun-Times and NBC5 News received the records through a Freedom of Information Act request. Burke has the same Firearm Control License as State Sen. Donne Trotter, who made headlines recently when he charged with trying to board a plane at O’Hare with a gun and ammunition in his possession.

The South Side senator said he forgot the gun was in his bag after working an overnight shift as a security guard.

Trotter’s work as a security guard was not well-known.

Neither is Burke’s work as a private detective and private security contractor.

Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation records show Burke has been a licensed private detective since Dec. 14, 1984, and a licensed private security contractor since April 17, 1987.

His Firearm Control Card was issued February 1, 2000, two weeks after he applied.

According to a state spokeswoman, the license is designed to allow security guards and detectives legal authority when they need a “weapon on the job.”

The card allows a person to carry a gun “while commuting directly to or from the employee’s place or places of employment.” The commute must not be longer than one hour.

The cards are to be issued only after an employer makes an application to the state.

Burke does not list any detective agency on his statement of financial interest mandated by the city.

Burke, along with other City Council members, is allowed to carry a weapon thanks to an 1872 law that states that mayors and aldermen are peace officers.

But a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation said the 140-year old law does not override state licensing requirements.

Burke’s security work was called into question in 1997 in a series of reports by the Chicago Sun-Times. Burke was a corporate officer in a firm co-owned by then-Ald. Patrick Huels. Burke also was the firm’s licensed security professional.

The Sun-Times reported that Michael Pedicone, the other co-owner of the security firm, was paid $472,162 in consulting fees by Burke’s Finance Committee. Federal subpoenas were issued in an ethics investigation but no charges were brought.

Burke has championed tougher gun laws in Chicago. In 1982, he supported Mayor Jane Byrne’s push for one of the toughest gun laws in the country.

“What it does do is hopefully number one, send a message to the Congress and the state legislature that there has to be some kind of effective regulation of handguns which are wreaking such violence in our society today,” Burke said on the Council floor. “What it does do hopefully is put a freeze on the number of handguns that are presently owned by the people in the city of Chicago.”

The measure passed 30-11 and was on the books until a 2010 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court said cities and states could not restrict gun ownership.

Burke, in addition to being the only alderman with a Firearm Control Card, is the only alderman with bodyguards, provided by taxpayers.

The bodyguard detail and Burke’s private detective license date back to the days of Council Wars, one of the most contentious times in recent city history.

In 1983, Burke was a key player in the so-called Vrdolyak 29, an all-white faction led by then-Ald. Ed Vrdolyak, doing political battle with new Mayor Harold Washington. After Burke told city officials about threats, the protective detail was assigned to him.

A Chicago Police officer until he succeeded his father as 14th Ward alderman in 1969, Burke completed his initial state firearm training in 1965, records show.

In 1978, Burke officially retired from the police department. His firearm training license, according to state records, expires in 2099.

Burke did not respond to the Sun-Times’ and NBC5’s questions about his private detective work, including whether he is armed when conducting city council business.

Contributing: Fran Spielman

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