Too Much State Police Protection

November 07, 1993

C The time has come for Gov. William Donald Schaefer to do away with the cocoon-like protection he is given by the Maryland State Police. It costs taxpayers $1.5 million a year for this gubernatorial security blanket -- far more than in other states.

Does the governor need police protection? Absolutely. Does he need so much security? Probably not. A force of 20 troopers guards the governor, the mansion and his companion, Hilda Mae Snoops. They act as chauffeur and errand-boy for Mrs. Snoops, they walk the governor's dog, they help with gardening at the governor's private home.

Tight security is a legacy of Spiro Agnew. When then-Governor Agnew was named Richard Nixon's running mate in 1968, it was just after the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. The Secret Service took over Governor Agnew's security detail, massively increasing protection. State troopers copied federal procedures. Since then, the procedures have remained in place.

Such suffocating police presence for a state governor isn't warranted. The Associated Press surveyed 11 states and couldn't find another governor with such extensive security. In two states, Wyoming and Idaho, the governors don't have any bodyguards and routinely drive themselves to official events. Even states bigger than Maryland provide less security for their governor.

There is a need to protect the governor against crackpots and lawbreakers. But it would be cheaper and more sensible to restrict State Police duties to those of a discreet bodyguard and leave the driving, dog-walking and house protection to less-costly state workers -- or even privately paid employees.

In an era of downsizing government, this would be the right thing to do. Yet Governor Schaefer isn't the only elected official given excess security. State legislators are over-protected, too.

Each committee chairman gets a state trooper to protect and drive him around during the legislative session. Troopers protect and chauffeur the House speaker and Senate president year-round. Each committee hearing receives State Police bodyguards. And troopers saturate the House and Senate chambers when the legislature meets.

Surely there's a way to give lawmakers adequate security without running up the bill on taxpayers. Just as the time has come for the governor to examine his own security needs, so should legislative leaders.

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