Daley bodyguards worried about job security after Emanuel elected
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The head of the mayoral security detail told a fellow officer that several of Mayor Richard M. Daley’s Bridgeport-raised bodyguards were “m———– racists,” according to testimony Wednesday in a lawsuit filed by former members of the security team who say they were dropped from the team and replaced with black officers.
On the witness stand Wednesday, Officer Carol Weingart said she joined the detail the same day as Brian Thompson, who would go on to lead the mayoral security team for the last months of Daley’s term and continue in the post under Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Weingart is one of 11 white or Latino officers who say they lost their jobs when Emanuel took office to make room for African-American officers or cops who had volunteered to help Emanuel’s campaign.
Early on in their time on the unit, Weingart recalled that Thompson, who is African American, once confided about his high school years, when he had to walk through Bridgeport, and complained that three Bridgeport natives on Daley’s detail were racist. Years later, two of those officers would be among the 11 to lose their jobs
“I think [Thompson] formed an opinion for these gentlemen or for that neighborhood,” said Weingart of the South Side enclave that is the ancestral stomping grounds of the Daley clan and home to many Chicago police and firefighter families.
City attorneys have said mayoral bodyguards were never guaranteed to keep their jobs forever, and Weingart and other officers who have testified have said their job security was as pressing a concern as Daley’s security in the weeks after Emanuel won the 2011 election.
Officer John Piggott said he pestered Thompson for weeks about whether he would join Emanuel’s detail. The eve of Daley’s last day in office, Piggott said he asked Thompson what qualifications Thompson was considering for members of Emanuel’s detail.
“He said ‘John, the color of your skin is your sin,’” Piggott said. “I said, ‘Excuse me?’ He said, ‘You heard me.’ And he walked out of the office.”
The next day, Piggott said he was told to report to the police academy for training for a new assignment.
As the trial entered its third day, Weingart and Piggott were the latest of the 11 officers to take the stand. Emanuel himself will have to testify when the trial enters its second phase next week, a bench trial dealing with the officers’ claims that the mayor and city violated the Shakman Decree by replacing the officers with cops who had worked on Emanuel’s campaign or had volunteered for duty driving Emanuel around while he was mayor-elect. City attorneys have said Emanuel will give a videotaped deposition, but lawyers for the officers said they will press to have the mayor in the courtroom for questioning.
Weingart, whose father, sister, brother in-law and uncle all are or were Chicago Police officers, wept several times as she described her time on the mayor’s security team, a plum post that came with better pay and more prestige than any assignment she’s had before or since.
Officers on the details earned sergeant’s pay, which typically pushed their pay above six figures without overtime. Weingart said she lost between $1,600 to $1,800 a month when she was demoted off the unit after years of driving for Daley aide Pat McClain, who had told her around 2008 that Daley planned to run for at least one, and possibly two, more terms.
City attorneys pointed out that most of the officers who were on the detail had no special training or underwent any testing to get their jobs on the mayoral detail, considered by many in the department’s rank-and-file to be an assignment offered only to cops with political juice.
Officers also seemed aware race played a role in the day-to-day functions of the unit: It was a practice on the detail to have black officers positioned closest to Daley when the mayor was in predominantly African American neighborhoods, or an Italian officer when the mayor traveled to a predominantly Italian area, Piggott said.
City attorney Vincent Connelly pointed out that Weingart considered Daley’s longevity as a factor in whether or not she kept her job, noting the officer said she decided to buy a condo around 2008, when McClain said Daley intended to stay in office for “at least one and possibly two more terms.”
“His prediction proved to be wrong,” Connelly said, referring to McClain. “You were basically pegging your decision … whether you stayed for two or more terms to whether Mayor Daley ran for two more terms.”