The city's most veteran - and probably most powerful - alderman is defending his use of a controversial police detail.
FOX Chicago News caught up with Alderman Ed Burke as he left his downtown law office to get into his unmarked police car, accompanied by two full-time Chicago police officers.
"These police officers put in a lot of hours, and under the contract with the FOP. That's what it requires," Burke said, when asked whether the $600,000 in taxes spent on his security detail in 2009 was appropriate.
A lot of hours means a lot of overtime.
In response to the BGA's lawsuit, the city said Burke's detail is made up of four full-time officers and one part-timer.
In 2009, the four full time members made $150,000, $147,000, $140,000 and $132,000, respectively. Their base salaries were less than $100,000.
Burke said they probably got so much overtime because they put in 14-15 hour days. When asked again about the propriety of spending taxpayer’s money this way - as an alderman, a steward of city resources – Burke said that the original court order provided for the detail and dates back to the 1940s.
Burke said that court order is the key to why he's kept his detail. It orders police to provide security for the finance committee chairman.
But it also said the mayor can remove that security. Last month, Mayor Emanuel announced Burke's cops will go back to the street, replaced by two retired officers.
“Every other chairman of the Finance Committee going back to the 40s has also been the subject of a protection detail,” Burke responded to the notion that he might not have the detail if he didn’t want it.
“I think the goal should be to see policemen back on the street,” Burke said, when considering the city’s current economic situation, as opposed to when the order was instated. “Hopefully we can make some adjustments."
Burke said he understands why the security detail bothers taxpayers.
"I think we need to do all we can to put policemen back on the street,” Burke said. “But once again, this is a practice that's existed for 60 years."
Burke did not give a straight answer when asked if he is willing to give up the detail.
"We'll talk to the police department and make sure whatever is done is done responsibly," he said.
Alderman Burke also quibbles with FOX Chicago News and BGA’s calculation that his detail has cost taxpayers roughly eleven-million dollars since 1983, when he became finance chairman.
He said union overtime rules were less generous in those days, so the detail cost less.
Even though Mayor Emanuel ordered the security slim down a month ago, Alderman Burke still has his full complement of officers.
The city said it's still in the process of hiring retired cops to take over.