State spends millions for state troopers to protect and drive officials

Animosity between Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and the head of the Maryland State Police executive protection unit goes all the way back to the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Gansler was there without a protective detail, and, according to a memo from Lt. Charles Ardolini, became upset that Gov. Martin O'Malley brought a detail of state troopers with him. Gansler's camp disputes the account on one point, saying he was actually irritated that Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown had a protective detail in Denver because Gansler felt it was wasteful.

Both Brown and Gansler are now angling for the party's nomination to replace O'Malley as governor.

Ardolini's email was disclosed after a Public Information Act request, along with documents outlining allegations that the attorney general often told his drivers to speed, run red lights and use lights and sirens in routine situations. Those claims, which Gansler denies, have become an early campaign issue that highlights a pricey program to protect and transport a handful of state officials.

The attorney general and the lieutenant governor are both entitled to a security detail — along with the governor, his family, the comptroller and the treasurer. During the 90-day General Assembly session, the Senate president and House speaker are on the list, too.

All told, the program cost the state $4.3 million in the last fiscal year, according to Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman. The executive protection unit includes 30 specially trained state troopers, who must apply for the role and pass a screening.

"This is a difficult position to serve in. It has demands that are very, very different from what a trooper on patrol would deal with," Shipley said. "It is a demanding assignment that you have to want to do and you have to be good at."

Shipley, citing security concerns, said he could not elaborate on how many troopers are assigned to each public official or what hours they work.

Gansler has acknowledged a tendency toward back-seat driving but denies that he ordered troopers to drive unsafely or drove unsafely himself.

State police have strict rules for when they can use emergency equipment on the road, according to the agency's patrol manual. Troopers can drive "Code 1" — above the speed limit with lights and sirens — only if someone's life is on the line. In an emergency that is not life-threatening, troopers may drive at "Code 2," with lights and sirens but within the speed limit.

—Carrie Wells

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad