Trooper security for governor getting overhaul

June 11, 2008 12:30:33 PM PDT
Gov. David Paterson said Wednesday he supports having the state police superintendent choose the trooper in charge of his security detail instead of leaving that up to the governor himself. New state police Superintendent Harry Corbitt reviewed the detail's protocols and practices and sent Paterson's office a report outlining plans for an overhaul to ensure a governor doesn't exert undue influence over the unit or its security decisions.

"The issue was the governor was choosing the head of the detail, and they don't want me to do it. I actually would agree with that," Paterson said Wednesday. "I'd agree with that because the police have to make their own decisions, and that relationship, you know, it has to be a scrupulous relationship."

The unit has been criticized since former Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned March 17 after federal authorities said he patronized a high-priced prostitute in Washington. Troopers were with him on the trip and responsible for his security round-the-clock.

Paterson said Wednesday he didn't yet know the report's contents, though he was aware state police were doing an internal investigation. "Whatever they come back with I will abide by," he said.

Asked about governors sometimes telling the detail to back off, Paterson said he understood something about that from his year as lieutenant governor, but noted things are different now.

"When I was lieutenant governor, I pretty much chose when I used the security, and then I chose when I didn't," Paterson said.

"So there was sometimes when I'd get out with (his wife) Michelle, Michelle was driving, I didn't really want a tail car of the state police. But again, it was their security determination that the lieutenant governor could do that."

"Now when you're governor, you get some kind of supervision 24/7 and, you know, so I understand that," he said.

The planned overhaul, first reported Wednesday by the New York Times, is intended to modernize the detail, which has grown from a few bodyguards and drivers to a staff of 200 that also provides security at the state Capitol, the governor's mansion in Albany and a governor's private residence.

Corbitt's audit did not directly address whether troopers in Spitzer's detail were aware of his assignations, the newspaper reported. Former troopers said the danger of having governors choose is feeling indebted to the governors or their senior staff, leaving a detail commander vulnerable to pressure.

State police spokesman Lt. Glenn Miner declined to comment on an internal report.