CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago has been hit with mob attacks in the downtown area, daily gun violence and a shortage of uniformed police officers to deal with it all, but some officers are protecting politicians rather than the public.
As CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, it is costing taxpayers $3 million a year.
Dozens of officers and millions of dollars are spent to protect the Mayor and a handful of other city officials. Is it money well spent or a luxury we can no longer afford?
On the South Side Thursday morning, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was accompanied by at least four Chicago Police officers, in two cars, as he left an event promoting summer safety for inner city students.
At City Hall, Treasurer Stephanie Neely arrived for work, as usual, accompanied by another Chicago Police officer, who drives her to and from work and to appointments throughout the day.
And when Ald. Ed Burke (14th) attends events like last week’s ribbon cutting in his ward, it is under the watchful eyes of two Chicago police officers. Burke went to court to keep his detail when Mayor Harold Washington tried to take it away back in the 1980s.
“There is a court order, and it exists with that. If we need to we’ll look at that,” Mayor Emanuel said. “But my main goal isn’t the six officers assigned to Alderman Burke, but the 650 officers we put on the street.”
But it’s a lot more than just six officers. A Freedom of Information Act request by CBS 2 turned up many security specialists making between $88,000 and $105,000 a year.
Add in the commander and the total is 31 officers making $2.8 million, protecting five public officials – Mayor Emanuel, former Mayor Richard M. Daley, Burke, Neely, and former Chicago Housing Authority chief Lewis Jordan.
And don’t think the new police superintendent doesn’t know it.
“Looking at who’s driving who; who’s working with who. I sent cops out of my office,” police Supt. Garry McCarthy said.
City Clerk Susana Mendoza does not have a police security detail.
“I drive myself, and I ride my bike, so at most my security detail is either my seatbelt or my helmet,” Mendoza said.
Yet Mendoza’s job is much higher profile than that of Treasurer Neely.
“I believe that it’s more important to have police officers that could have been assigned to my detail to be working on the street,” Mendoza said.
Mayor Emanuel addressed the question directly Wednesday.
“Here’s the deal, Jay,” he said. “I asked in the transition for (former police Supt.) Terry Hillard to do a review based on security, because I wanted this removed from politics. “They’ve looked at my security. They’re going to look at everybody’s security. They’re going to make that judgment, which is what they were supposed to do, based on safety, not politics.”
It’s hard to argue with security for the Mayor himself. But Burke says it will take a court order to take his away, Jordan refused to give his up before Emanuel took them away, and Neely declined to talk to us about the taxpayer-paid perk – complimentary cars, driven by officers McCarthy says he could really use on the street.