Fenty Trims Security Detail, Takes Driver's Seat
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty no longer has a full-time police detail to protect him as he travels about the city on official business, preferring to drive his own vehicle, unaccompanied by officers.
Fenty (D) said he has not decided to abolish the security force, and the current situation is not necessarily permanent. When asked why he has been driving alone, without police protection, Fenty replied, in a matter-of-fact tone:
"Because I have a driver's license."
Prior D.C. chief executives have had little practice parallel parking while in office. Until last weekend, plainclothes officers transported Fenty in a two-vehicle motorcade to and from the John A. Wilson Building. At least three officers provided Secret Service-style protection for the mayor at all public events.
Fenty said he decided this month to go without constant police protection, and he has been driving his personal sport-utility vehicle on official duties.
It is a striking turnabout from early in his administration, when he traveled in a motorcade that frequently used emergency flashers and sirens to cut through traffic as he whipped around the city to attend community meetings.
It wasn't clear what prompted the change. One aide suggested that it stems from Fenty's supreme confidence in his knowledge of the city. The aide noted that when Fenty represented Ward 4 on the D.C. Council, he refused to let anyone drive him, telling aides who offered, "If someone else knows Ward 4 better, they can drive."
In response to questions about why he has been driving solo, Fenty said, "I've been driving myself since I was 16 years old."
The decision by the mayor of the nation's capital to go out on his own mystifies and worries some city officials.
"This raises legitimate concerns," said at-large council member Phil Mendelson, chairman of the judiciary committee. "For three decades, we've been told by the police that the mayor needs a security detail. What's different now?"
Asked whether he thought he didn't need police protection, Fenty said he would only answer fact-based questions and did not want to "editorialize."
"I probably won't get into questions where you ask about protecting myself and security matters. I will answer basic questions about what I'm doing, how tall I am and what kind of car I'm driving," Fenty said.