State Troopers Say Maryland’s AG Is a Terrible Backseat Driver

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According to accounts by a number of state troopers (reported by the Washington Post), Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler regularly insists that officers assigned to drive him use the lights and sirens in non-emergency situations, including when he needs to get to parties and sporting events. In one case, Gansler allegedly said he would drive himself, using the official vehicle, because he was late for a Redskins game and knew his assigned driver wouldn't turn on the sirens for him. 

Some of the accounts said that Gansler would berate troopers who refused to use the lights and sirens or use other aggressive-driving tactics like using the shoulder of the road and running red lights. "When troopers refused to activate the emergency equipment," the Post reported, "Gansler … often flipped the switches himself."

In memos posted on the newspaper's website, troopers said Gansler had told them that "stop signs are optional" and "the faster you go over speed bumps the better."

Gansler said in a statement Saturday that the allegations are untrue. Well, "untrue" is the word the Post used; Gansler actually said "the picture being painted by these documents is not an accurate reflection of reality," which isn't quite the same thing. In fact, to me it sounds more like "true but I can explain." But Gensler went on to concede that yes, "a few" of the troopers who have been assigned to him "felt my backseat driving made them uncomfortable," and "for that I apologize." So, pretty much true then?

A spokesman for the attorney general did flat-out deny the allegations that Gansler had ever used the sirens himself or flipped the switches from the back seat. He said that a "long-running animosity" between Gansler and Lt. Charles Ardolini, commander of the state police executive-protection detail, was "partly responsible" for the allegations, but it wasn't clear how big that part supposedly was. According to the spokesman, any suggestions Gansler might have made about how the troopers should drive—which, again, seems to concede he made some—were only suggestions that they were free to ignore. The troopers report to the governor, he said, not the attorney general.

Did I mention that Gansler is running for governor?

It's not clear how many of the 18 or so troopers who have been assigned to drive Gansler over the years have actually complained. The names were redacted from the documents provided to the Post, but a police spokesman said there were at least six. For his part, Gansler pointed reporters to two troopers who backed him up, telling the Post that he never ordered them to do anything. "They don't come any finer than Doug Gansler," one of them reportedly said. But those sources insisted on anonymity too.

Will the traffic scandal merit a -gate suffix? Stay tuned.