Police chief attacks Sun reporter's actions

McLhinney calls note to officer 'over line'

May 17, 2006|By GUS G. SENTEMENTES | GUS G. SENTEMENTES,SUN REPORTER

The chief of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police decried yesterday the actions of a Sun reporter investigating a unit that escorts celebrities, public officials and professional athletes at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Chief Gary W. McLhinney, who heads the state law enforcement agency that oversees security at BWI, and Maryland's ports and major bridges and tunnels, said the reporter, Michael Dresser, acted "unprofessionally."

McLhinney, at a news conference yesterday, defended the appropriateness of the unit and released more than 300 pages of documents. The Sun had asked for those documents in a Public Information Act request.

McLhinney displayed Dresser's business card, on which was a handwritten note that the reporter sent to Officer Steve Benner, who works in the executive protection unit.

The note said: "We should talk. I know a lot about what's going on there. So does your next boss. The long-term prospects of the escort business looks grim. Let's meet in a safe place."

McLhinney said that Dresser "stepped over the line in his professional responsibilities. To insinuate that he's going to have a new boss? This was clearly meant to intimidate this officer into violating" regulations that prohibit officers from talking to the news media.

At the time the note was written, McLhinney had said he was considering leaving his post and running for Harford County sheriff. He said Monday that he was no longer considering the race.

Dresser declined to comment and referred questions to The Sun's editor, Timothy A. Franklin.

Franklin said in a statement that it was "not The Sun's practice to try to intimidate any source into talking to us, and that was not the intention in this case, either. Our metro editor, Mike Leary, explained as much in a cordial phone conversation with Mr. McLhinney yesterday.

"In light of that conversation, we were surprised that he chose to call a news conference today. Obviously, the police officer decided not to talk to us, and that's his prerogative."

Dresser co-wrote an article in The Sun last year that revealed critical gaps in security at the port of Baltimore. McLhinney ordered an internal investigation that identified a transportation authority officer who provided information to the newspaper. That officer, George Tarburton Jr., was stripped of his police powers four days after the article ran and has appealed the department's attempt to fire him.gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

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