Are police bodyguards necessary for some politicians?
January 19, 2006 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- Is it much needed police protection or a political perk awarded to top elected officials? That is the question being asked about dozens of police bodyguards assigned to drive and protect everyone from the city clerk to an influential alderman. That question comes as Chicago police re-assigned the bodyguards who have been protecting indicted City Clerk James Laski.
For many months now, ABC7 News has been looking into the personal police forces of some area politicians. For the nine month period ABC7 looked at last year, the Chicago Police Department says bodyguards assigned to the city clerk, city treasurer and Alderman Ed Burke did not file a single police report. They did not create any paper work on what the police department terms incidents involving their protectees. So why are they needed?
In a city the size of Chicago it's only natural for the mayor to receive police protection. But as far back as 2001, the ABC 7 I-Team began reporting on the police officers assigned to protect other elected officials.
Until this week, City Clerk Jim Laski's personal police detail picked-him up for work every morning and drove him home at the end of the day. The I-Team even found the officers driving around Laski's daughter and other relatives. This week, Chicago Police pulled the perk after newspaper reports revealed Laski stopped going to work in the weeks leading-up to his indictment.
"We are continually assessing and evaluating the security needs for individuals," said Monique Bond, Chicago Police Spokesperson.
Police spokeswoman Monique Bond says a threat assessment not indictments dictate who gets a bodyguard and who has to fend for them self.
In addition to the mayor and Laski, police also provide protection for City Treasurer Judith Rice and Alderman Ed Burke.
ABC 7 filed a Freedom of Information Act Request seeking general police reports and incident reports from the teams that protect those people during a nine month period last year. The department responded by saying, "There are no known police case reports." The good news is there were also no expense reports submitted by the bodyguards.
Police say there were threats but they can not talk about them.
"We would never talk about or discuss the number of threats, or police reports or any of that information because it would compromise their security," said Bond.
The mayor also does not have much to say on the topic, but he insists bodyguards are not merely a reward for getting elected.
ABC7's Ben Bradley asked Mayor Daley, "If there was not a single incident in six months for all of these elected officials, at what point is there no threat and it's just a perk, someone to hold a hat or drive a car?" Daley responded by saying, "The police department evaluates that, I'm not a security expert."
Illinois Lt. Governor Pat Quinn turned down an offer of state police security when he was elected. He says more often than not bodyguards become the personal valets and chauffeurs of elected officials.
"If you're the city clerk, the city treasurer or even the state treasurer about the only threat you face is from a paper cut," said Pat Quinn, Illinois Lt. Governor.
The police department says all of the city's elected officials have had threats made against them in the last six years. But they offer no specifics or evidence of arrests.
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