Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday defended his decision to cut in half – but still retain – the police bodyguard detail that accompanied former Mayor Richard M. Daley and his wife, Maggie, into retirement.
Emanuel noted that he’s cutting the detail from six active officers to three and that two of those officers would be on call to take Maggie Daley to and from the hospital and to doctors visits.
Maggie Daley has suffered a series of recent setbacks in her nearly 10-year battle against metastatic breast cancer.
“While we are a city of big shoulders, we’re also a city of big hearts,” Emanuel told reporters at an unrelated news conference.
“The former first lady has served this city without any compensation at all for years. It’s the decent thing to do as a city, and we’re decent people.”
Emanuel stressed that all three officers would be “working in the neighborhood doing policing” when they are not needed by Maggie Daley or by the former mayor.
Pressed on why Mrs. Daley needs to be transported by active police officers, Emanuel said it’s an arrangement that the former first lady “has been comfortable with in the past.
“Given where her health needs are, I thought it was an appropriate thing to make sure she’s comfortable,” he said.
“I made that decision because, as she’s dealing with her health issues, getting to and from the hospital for her health care should not be a problem for her, and I didn’t want it to be a problem.”
Emanuel then referred to the 20 years Maggie Daley spent building Gallery 37, the award-winning arts and education program at Block 37 in the North Loop that evolved into After School Matters, a program to occupy and educate Chicago teenagers.
“She has done countless, thousands of hours on behalf of the city as the first lady and this is, in my view, a minor and small token way” of thanking her, he said.
Weeks before Daley left office, he requested around-the-clock protection by at least five police bodyguards – and at least two vehicles at his disposal – to provide security for himself and his wife in retirement.
After a Secret Service evaluation of Daley’s security needs, Emanuel authorized a six-officer detail and left it untouched even after cutting the security assigned to Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) in half – from four active police officers to two retired ones.
The Burke and Daley bodyguards became a sore point with Chicago taxpayers, who suggested cutting both men off in ideas posted on a budget website set up by Emanuel.
It also became a flash point for the Fraternal Order of Police after a two-year hiring slowdown that has left the Chicago Police Department more than 2,300 officers-a-day short of authorized strength.
Emanuel’s mandate that police Supt. Garry McCarthy cut at least $190 million from the police department’s $1.3 billion budget – a move that’s likely to force the elimination of 1,400 police vacancies – added further fuel to the fire.
On Monday, Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Shields criticized Emanuel for not going far enough.
“Will the remaining detail still be making trips to the Daley summer home in Michigan? At some point, Chicago needs to stop treating politicians like royalty. Mayor Daley is a very wealthy man who can afford his own valet service. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for it,” Shields said.
“Whether it’s 10 or six or three [Daley bodyguards], it’s too many. CPD is down 2,000 officers. We can use every available officer out in the field.”