CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) - Mayor Rahm Emanuel will testify in a lawsuit filed by former members of Richard M. Daley’s security detail, who claim they were demoted from their bodyguard jobs and replaced with officers who were either African-American or had worked on Emanuel’s campaign.
Emanuel will give a videotaped deposition in the trial, which began this week in federal court, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber ruled on Tuesday. Eight officers — all white or Latino — who had served as mayoral security officers for Daley claim they were “dumped” from their jobs unceremoniously in the days before Emanuel was sworn in in 2011, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
“We believe that the claims in this four-year-old suit are frivolous and without merit, and we continue to vigorously defend this case in court,” the city Law Department said in a statement.
Last month, Emanuel was ordered to take the stand to testify about statements he’d made about a “code of silence” in the CPD, in a lawsuit filed by two officers who claimed they were harassed by fellow officers after they helped with a federal investigation of police corruption. The city settled the lawsuit for $2 million days later.
The mayor will face questioning about emails from a campaign aide requesting a half-dozen officers be transferred to the mayoral detail. The officers also claim that campaign staffers asked officers who volunteered for the campaign to run the license plates of someone who was taking pictures of then-candidate Emanuel.
Lawyers for the city already have submitted written responses to questions by the mayor, who claimed he had no role in the makeup of his security team.
Tuesday, former Interim Police Supt. Terry Hillard, who ran the department in the weeks before Emanuel took office, testified he talked with the then mayor-elect very briefly several times, and that he approved members of the detail based on recommendations from Brian Thompson, the commander of the mayoral detail under Daley and now under Emanuel.
Emanuel “said he wanted a ‘bare-bones’ detail,” Hillard said, recalling that he talked to Emanuel for a total of a few minutes about the security team, spread over about three conversations with the mayor. “I remember ‘bare bones’ because I didn’t know what he meant by that.”
Hillard said that he had worked as a coordinator for former Mayor Jane Byrne’s security detail, a post he lost when he went for a month-long training stint at the FBI Academy, only to be reassigned to the detail when Harold Washington took office.
Hillard said he knew nothing about the training or duty records of the officers he moved onto the detail for Emanuel, trusting the recommendations from Thompson. Attorney Ed Fox pointed out one officer assigned to Emanuel’s crew had been disciplined for firing their weapon accidentally inside a police station.
“Does somebody who’s accidentally discharging weapons at work seem, in your opinion, to be the best person to be around the mayor with a gun?” Fox asked.
“Depends on circumstance,” Hillard replied.
Sgt. Patrick Doyle told jurors he found out two days before Emanuel took office that he had lost his post despite working five years on Daley’s detail, despite experience as a Marine Corps security officer and other specialized training.
“I felt like someone had just punched and knocked the wind out of me,” said Doyle, who was reassigned to training and now works in patrol. “I felt that I was just being thrown to the wayside.”
Officer Richard Soto choked up on the stand as he described the joy he felt when he was permanently assigned to Daley’s detail after months of subbing for other officers. A woman on the jury offered him a tissue.
“I never been fired before and that’s exactly what it felt like,” Soto said.