Political Entitlement: Maryland AG Accused Of Regularly Turning On Sirens, Ordering Troopers To Drive Dangerously
from the rules-are-meant-to-be-broken...-by-officials dept
Maryland attorney general Douglas F. Gansler was looking to take a run at the governor’s office. The operative word is “was.” A stack of reports detailing his thorough abuse of state trooper vehicles (and the troopers themselves) obtained by the Washington Post will put a dent in those aspirations. This isn’t just a few tickets being tossed out or a couple of overlooked traffic violations. No, Gansler’s abuse was also aspirational in its own way, almost as if he had spotted an opening for “tinpot dictator” and was working his way up the ranks, starting with local law enforcement.
Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler regularly ordered state troopers assigned to drive him to turn on the lights and sirens on the way to routine appointments, directing them to speed, run red lights and bypass traffic jams by using the shoulder, according to written accounts by the Maryland State Police.
When troopers refused to activate the emergency equipment, Gansler, now a Democratic candidate for governor, often flipped the switches himself, according to the police accounts. And on occasion, he became so impatient that he insisted on driving, directing the trooper to the passenger’s seat. Gansler once ran four red lights with sirens blaring, a trooper wrote. Another account said he “brags” about driving the vehicle unaccompanied on weekends with the sirens on.
“This extremely irresponsible behavior is non-stop and occurs on a daily basis,” Lt. Charles Ardolini, commander of the state police executive protection section, wrote in a December 2011 memo that said the problem had existed for five years. “Attorney General Gansler has consistently acted in a way that disregards public safety, our Troopers safety and even the law.”
Has he ever. For more than five years, Gansler has been playing Mr. Right-of-Way, either by cruising around in law enforcement vehicles unaccompanied or by being the annoying backseat driver who reaches up front to flip on the lights and sirens anytime traffic slows or a light turns red.
There are 20 pages of AG misbehavior, which would be highly entertaining if it wasn’t for the fact that this man is an arbiter of justice, the man who’s supposed to be holding cops accountable, not the other way around.
According to statements from officers who’ve had the displeasure of working with Gansler, he feels everything should be treated as an emergency.
Everyday AG insists that the Troopers run Code 1 to his events. This includes breakfast, meetings and his children’s sporting events. If the Troopers tell him that they have been ordered by their Lieutenant not to do this, he will make negative comments about me and “order” them to put the emergency equipment on. If they do not turn the lights and sirens on he will reach over and turn them on himself. I am told almost daily by the Troopers that they are worried about their safety and the safety of others.
Nice. An AG that puts the safety of others behind “breakfast” on the priority list. He also likes to use trooper vehicles as personal vehicles and drive the [[wheels]] bumper off them.
Driving the vehicle himself: On several occasions the Troopers have responded to his house for a pick up and the truck has had damage. Sometimes minor and a few times more severe. (we had to tape the front bumper on once) He freely discusses with the Troopers about how he drives the truck on the weekends and evenings. He also freely discusses driving the vehicle with the lights and sirens on without the Troopers present. Most of the Troopers feel that this is illegal and this makes them very uncomfortable.
Throughout the report, Gansler is quoted as telling troopers such things as, “stop signs are optional,” “troopers don’t sit in traffic” and “I don’t care how fast we drive. The faster the better.” He also has pointed out to a few troopers that he’d rather do the driving himself whenever they seem hesitant to indulge his desire to break traffic laws. One incident saw him order the trooper to engage the lights and drive on the right shoulder in order to bypass traffic stopped by an accident. His driver did so, passing other unmarked vehicles, including one holding the governor. When the trooper mentioned to Gansler that he might face disciplinary action for driving on the shoulder when there was no emergency, Gansler said, “Oh, OK,” and left looking “completely unconcerned.”
Gansler also threatened to report troopers that didn’t drive “correctly,” i.e. run red lights, activate sirens/lights, and exceed the speed limit. He also trashed the two citations he was given, stating he wouldn’t pay them.
Gansler blames this on “long-running animosity” between the AG and Lt. Charles Ardolini, the head of the state’s executive protection division.
“The picture being painted by these documents is not an accurate reflection of reality,” said Gansler, a former Montgomery County state’s attorney who was first elected attorney general in 2006. “I deeply respect the troopers and job they do protecting me and the public. A few of the 18 troopers who have provided me protection felt my backseat driving made them uncomfortable — for that I apologize.”
Gansler’s spokesperson claims this started in 2011, when Gansler felt he was being handed off “second-tier troopers” by Ardolini. Ardolini claims it goes back to 2008 when Gansler was apparently irritated that the governor had troops assigned to him while Gansler did not. (A spokesman for the Maryland State Police chimed in with a statement that there’s no such thing as “second-tier troopers,” a win for trooper morale if nothing else.)
Whether this report provides the entire picture of Gansler’s behavior is somewhat open to debate. But all Gansler has really offered in defense is “someone’s out to get me” and the not-on-the-record statements of two troopers (out of the 18 assigned to Gansler so far) that portray the AG as a pleasure to work with and a stickler for obeying the law.
The document release couldn’t have come at a worse time for Gansler, seeing as it came right as Gansler announced his running mate for his run for governor. The current governor has already endorsed Gansler’s opponent and has instructed the state police to take whatever action they feel is appropriate, including revoking the AG’s access to the protective duty. The timing may be suspect, but it’s highly unlikely Ardolini would be working towards cutting off service to a person a majority of troopers liked working with. Rather, it looks as though more than five years of abuse has caught up with Gansler, and Ardolini’s no longer interested in having his troopers serve as enablers for a wanna-be cop who seemingly breaks rules just to break rules.