Burke adamant to keep bodyguards: ‘A court order is a court order’
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org June 22, 2011 1:20PM
Ald. Ed Burke (14th) | Sun-Times file photo
Updated: September 24, 2011 12:20AM
Arguing that “a court order is a court order,” Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) signaled Wednesday that he’s not about to voluntarily relinquish the Chicago Police bodyguards who have chauffeured and protected him for nearly three decades.
“A court order is a court order and, in order to change it, there would have to be a hearing,” Burke said after chairing a meeting of the City Council’s Finance Committee.
During the mayoral campaign, Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed to shrink Burke’s bodyguard detail to usher in an era of “shared sacrifice” needed to solve the city’s financial crisis.
“If Ed Burke has six police officers, that just can’t continue,” Emanuel said then.
Burke flatly denied that he has six bodyguards, but he refused to reveal the specific number.
Asked whether the bodyguard contingent he has now was still based on a court order issued in 1986, he said, “The court order is the court order. And it’s not 1986, it’s 1989. . . . There was a ruling in ’83, ’84, ’86 and ’89, if my memory serves me correctly.”
Burke walked away, as a reporter was asking whether the threat to his public safety that existed when he was a lightning rod during Council Wars still exists today.
But Harold Washington’s corporation counsel, Judson Miner, on Wednesday scoffed at the notion that the court order based on Burke’s conflict with Washington could still be in effect more than two decades later. Washington died in 1987. Judge Joseph Wosik, who issued the order, has also died.
“His opposition ended when Washington was no longer there to oppose,” Miner said. “The basis has evaporated. [Burke] has been in the pocket of every mayor since.”
Earlier this week, newly-appointed Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said he’s trying desperately to get more police officers on the street to ease a severe manpower shortage caused by a two-year hiring slowdown.
But McCarthy said his hands are tied when it comes to Burke because of the court order.
On Wednesday, Emanuel acknowledged that the 1986 court order that blocked the city’s attempt to cut Burke’s bodyguard detail from four officers to two makes the issue “not as simple” as it seems.
At the time, Wosik upheld Burke’s argument that he was a high-profile official subject to periodic threats and that a reduction in the number of bodyguard would have stifled his opposition to Washington.
“I asked in the transition for [Acting Supt.] Terry Hillard to do a review based on security because I wanted this to be removed from politics. . . .The superintendent looked into it. There is a court order that exists with that. If we need to, we’ll look at that,” Emanuel said.
“But my main goal wasn’t about the six officers related to Ald. Burke, but the 650 officers we put into the streets [on beats in high-crime neighborhoods]. . . . I’m not saying anybody gets a pass. They’ve looked at my security. They’re gonna look at everybody’s security. They’re gonna make that judgment . . . based on safety—not politics. But I have to stay focused on what the priorities are for the city.”
Burke’s bodyguards are not the only issue. So are the Chicago Police officers still assigned to protect former Mayor Richard M. Daley in retirement.
Emanuel has argued that Daley’s detail will be “short” in duration without declaring an end date.
On Wednesday, he was asked whether the bodyguards had accompanied Daley on a trip to Russia.
“I didn’t know the mayor, until you asked that, was in Moscow or in Russia. I didn’t know that. I’ll go back and I’ll ask, `Did Chicago Police have anything to do with that?’ ” he said.
After joining Emanuel to highlight summer jobs and recreation programs for at-risk teens, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle acknowledged that she has three police bodyguards.
Asked if she needs them, Preckwinkle said, “No.” But she noted that she has “a lot more visibility” than she had as a South Side alderman.
“I don’t feel threatened. But I occasionally get accosted by people and I’m grateful to have security detail,” Preckwinkle said.
Contributing: Abdon Pallasch