Wherever Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke travels on official business he rides in one of two city-owned Lincoln Town Cars and is escorted by three Baltimore police officers -- a practice one of his Democratic primary rivals is attacking as a waste of taxpayer money.
William A. Swisher has launched an extensive cable television advertising campaign against Schmoke, in an effort to convince voters that the mayor is out of touch with everyday Baltimoreans, according to Swisher.
"The ads talk about his two Lincolns and 14 bodyguards," said Swisher, a former state's attorney who has been out of elected office since he was defeated by Schmoke for that job in 1982. The ads are airing in Baltimore on at least four cable television channels: Cable News Network, Financial News Network, ESPN and Black Entertainment Television.
"The mayor has guys around him, walkie-talkies, ear plugs, the whole bit," Swisher said. "I was state's attorney for eight years and I put some of the most vicious people in jail. But I don't need that kind of protection."
When told of Swisher's charges, Schmoke lashed out, saying they illustrate Swisher's unwillingness to deal with the "core issues" facing Baltimore.
"This is a concocted issue by a man who is totally unqualified to be mayor, and he knows it," Schmoke said. "Eventually, the public will find that out as well."
Schmoke defended the mayoral security arrangements, saying that they are necessary and that they were only slightly modified when he took office in 1987.
City Police Department officials say there are 15 police officers -- including two supervisors -- and one clerical person assigned to the Executive Protection Unit. The unit is responsible for the security of Schmoke, his family and City Hall. A Police Department budget official provided salary figures that indicate
the unit's operation costs at least $670,000 a year.
Ten of the officers are assigned specifically to the mayor, said Michael Zotos, the deputy police commissioner who oversees the unit. They split their duties into several shifts in an effort to avoid overtime and allow for leave and training time.
Three officers travel with the mayor at any one time. One serves as an advance person, going ahead to places where the mayor is scheduled to visit, mainly to smooth logistics and check
The other two officers travel in the mayor's limousine. One drives; the other rides as a bodyguard.
Three other uniformed officers provide security at City Hall, where they man posts at the building's front door, outside the mayor's second-floor suite of offices and, when necessary, in the City Council Chambers.
A police officer also provides security for the mayor's wife and daughter on occasions, while another handles citizen complaints that flow into the mayor's office.
Zotos said that when William Donald Schaefer was mayor, he had seven officers assigned to him and traveled in a chauffeur-driven car. "The difference is that Mayor Schmoke has a family and that he uses a police officer as a driver," Zotos said.
Swisher says Schmoke's security arrangements are an issue because of their cost and because of how they symbolize Schmoke's aloofness.
"That kind of security is uncalled for in a city this size," Swisher said. "He's got to walk the streets and talk to people. That's why people say they can't reach him."
Swisher also criticized Schmoke for having two 1989 Lincoln Town Cars for use on city business. The two Lincolns replaced a 1987 Chevrolet that Schmoke had used during his first two years in office. Staff members have said the mayor needs two cars to allow for servicing and to ensure that miles don't accumulate as quickly on one car. The mayor clocks about 55,000 miles a year.
"I think he should have one car," Swisher said.
"Mayor Schaefer used to walk the streets by himself most of the time," Swisher said.
When told of that comment, Schmoke said:
"I know Mayor Schaefer. And Bill Swisher is no Mayor Schaefer."