Driving Factors

Much can be said about the Washington Post‘s hit-and-run on Attorney General Doug Gansler and his status as a “reckless passenger” according to the Maryland State Troopers who are assigned to serve as his personal driver. I won’t get into the political aspect of the fact that it seems like a story that can conveniently be linked back to the O’Malley Administration carrying water for their Lt. Governor, and it certainly seems like Doug Gansler would be the kind of politician who would encourage his drivers to take extra-legal means to get him where he wants to go.

But I want to talk about the fact that he had a driver in the first place.
According to the Maryland State Police the  Executive Protection Detail “provides security for the State’s constitutional officers, that is, the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller of Maryland, and State Treasurer.” In recent years though, that has been expanded to include both the President of the Senate as well as the Speaker of the House. While the ostensible reason for this “Executive Protection” has been security, more often than not this security devolves into a situation where the Troopers are serving little more as the driver of the protectee.

This instance, of course, is not just limited to Police Drivers for State Level officials too. Many County Executives as well as the Mayor of Baltimore also have police officers who serve as their drivers. Many times this can lead to excesses or abuses. In 2002, Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens was using her police car and driver in political parades (emblazoned with her campaign logo) during her re-election campaign. Just this year John Leopold’s use of his County Police drivers to driver him to his sexual liaisons, to steal campaign signs, and to perform mundane tasks was central to his conviction on corruption charges.

So the real question is why do these folks have Police Drivers in the first place? What reason does Doug Gansler, to focus on the relevant example, need a sworn police officer to drive him from one event to another? Why do most elected officials need police drivers to drive them from one event to another, particularly when they have staff assistants or body men who accompany them to these events?

Clearly there is a need for Executive Protection details, and maybe even a driver for elected officials such as the Governor or the Lieutenant Governor. If an incident or attack were to occur, it would behoove us to have those two officials with protection lest some nefarious elements try to take out our state government. And in instances of a known or potential threat on another elected official that the use of a Detail may be appropriate. But why do these Constitutional officers get protection details that basically amount to little more than personal drivers who can, as seen in the instance of Gansler, use their police powers at the convenience and whim of an elected official who has no need to use them?

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I highly doubt that there is a metamorphosis upon election to higher office that inhibits the ability of Attorneys General to operate a motor vehicle. The use of Executive Protection Details as drivers is a waste of taxpayer dollars and should be done away with for most elected officials. I don’t have somebody provided to me at taxpayer expense to drive me from place to place; the Attorney General, the Comptroller, and County Executives shouldn’t get one either.

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