City, state police staff O'Malley security force

Use of local officers follows pattern used by Schaefer

December 06, 2006|By John Fritze | John Fritze,Sun Reporter

Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley has chosen to use his current Baltimore Police Department-based security detail rather than relying solely on the Maryland State Police at least through his transition and possibly into next year, several sources told The Sun yesterday.

A tight-knit group, O'Malley's security force has been with the mayor for years - they trailed him throughout much of this year's campaign for governor, for instance - and for at least as long as he remains mayor, officials said, he will retain the officers and procedures he is comfortable with.

"He is still using city officers," O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said of the governor-elect. "He still is the sitting mayor."

O'Malley's security decision is similar to what former Mayor William Donald Schaefer did in 1987 when he was elected governor. Schaefer kept a handful of city police on his detail when he moved from City Hall to Annapolis, according to news reports at that time. He merged the city officers into a larger contingent from the state's executive protection unit.

Pointing to security concerns, neither state officials nor O'Malley aides would say how many city police will be kept or what, specifically, their role will be. About a dozen different plainclothes officers staff rotating shifts to protect O'Malley as mayor - serving as his driver, following him in a "tail car," guarding his office door or standing nearby at public events.

State police spokesman Greg Shipley referred questions on the matter to O'Malley's transition team.

At last night's Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore meeting in downtown Baltimore, O'Malley had city and state security in tow. Abbruzzese described the relationship as one in which city officers and state troopers are learning from one another.

Greg Massoni, a spokesman for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., said it was his understanding that O'Malley had declined the use of state police until he is sworn in - which, Massoni said, is exactly what Schaefer did.

"Obviously, he's staying with what he's comfortable with for now," Massoni said.

Certain patterns become comfortable to chief executives who are covered by security details. When traveling, for instance, O'Malley typically likes to ride in the front of a car - sometimes with one foot on the dash - while Ehrlich is more likely to ride in the back.

Plainclothes state police have provided 24-hour security for governors since at least 1967, when the force was made up of four officers, according to reports in The Sun. The detail has grown considerably since then, and it now stands guard at the State House, the governor's mansion and elsewhere. Typically, protection begins after a candidate wins the general election.

The detail protects not only the governor, but also his family.

Lt. Gov.-elect Anthony G. Brown has been assigned a state police security force, Abbruzzese said.

In 1987, Schaefer brought four city officers - paid for by Baltimore taxpayers - with him to Annapolis during the transition who stayed on well into his first months in office. At the time, Schaefer's spokesman said the officers were there to "provide information, guidance, insight and assistance to the state police executive security force as it improves and develops its operation to adjust to a new governor."

Abbruzzese said it is too early to say whether O'Malley's officers will stay on past the Jan. 17 swearing in and, if they do, how they will be paid.

"There are a number of options under consideration and we're currently engaged in discussions with the state police about how to minimize disruptions to the O'Malley children but no decisions have been made regarding the make up of the unit post inauguration," he said.

john.fritze@baltsun.com

Sun columnist Laura Vozzella contributed to this article.

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