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Chicago's finest: A new book on the city's fallen officers

By Elizabeth Taylor, Tribune literary editor
Chicago Tribune
CHICAGO — Sitting in a meeting room filled with photographs of former chairmen of the Chicago City Council's Finance Committee, the committee's current chairman, Edward M. Burke, alderman of the 14th Ward for the last 38 years, talked like an author.

He and Thomas J. O'Gorman, historian-in-residence of the Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago and a City Hall speechwriter, reflected on their new book, "End of Watch" (Chicago's Books Press, $50), full of photographs and profiles intended to bring honor to the 534 Chicago police officers killed in the line of duty from 1853 to 2006.

Counting these deaths was not as straightforward as one might imagine; Burke and O'Gorman started with the standard Police Department history but uncovered an array of characters whose deaths had eluded that count. Each death is reconstructed from police records and newspaper accounts, and the authors discussed with Tribune literary editor Elizabeth Taylor their determination to establish respect for all the slain officers:

Q: Why do you and the Chicago Police Department differ on the number of police officers killed in action?

TO: In the lobby of the police headquarters at 35th and Michigan, the actual stars of the line-of-duty officers who have been retired are actually in a very beautiful glass case. And when we began this project, we began with that official list. . . .

Then exactly a year ago, the Chicago police, in preparation for the new memorial wall, released the names of 78 more police officers who had died in the line of duty. . . . Many of them were men that had "keeled over" with a heart attack or such while chasing a criminal, and, thus, hadn't been properly recognized. And then through our own scholarship, we found 12 that maybe slipped through the cracks between 1864 and especially through the 1930s. Many of them were motorcycle policemen for the Park District. So when you add all those figures together, that is where 534 comes from.

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