Every big scandal that rocks Albany's executive branch seems to draw the state police into an unwanted role.
The troopers work under top brass chosen by the governor. On security details, they often operate discreetly. It is easy to see how top elected officials might start to confuse them with personal servants subject to their regal whims.
The sharpest edge in the attorney general’s report on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s conduct comes from the finding that Cuomo subjected a female trooper, picked by him for his security detail, to unwanted physical contact and inappropriate remarks.
This slice of the scandal sits right at the intersection of #MeToo and the debates over how to run a police force.
The cringeworthy report casts this case as one in a pattern of harassment cases, and conveys the corroboration and context:
"On September 23, 2019, while providing security assistance for an event in Belmont, Long Island as a member of the travel team, Trooper #1 held the door open for the Governor as he left the event. As the Governor walked by Trooper #1, he ran the palm of his left hand across her stomach in the direction opposite the direction that he was walking.
"The center of the Governor’s hand was on Trooper #1’s belly button, and he pushed his hand back to her right hip where she kept her gun. A Senior Investigator who was walking behind the Governor saw the Governor touch Trooper #1 in the stomach, and a number of [Protective Service Unit] members recalled hearing about this incident from Trooper #1 after it happened."
Nearly two years earlier, she and Cuomo met and first chatted at an on-duty event on the RFK Bridge. Cuomo soon asked for her to be promoted to his security detail although she didn't have the required three years experience. The qualification was cut to two years for her. She was assigned to Cuomo's residence in Mount Kisco and later to his travel team.
While attorney general in 2007, Democrat Cuomo issued a report blasting how Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer's office misused State Police to keep tabs on and leak some of the comings and goings of Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.
In 2009 under Gov. David Paterson, a State Police official went to a woman's apartment to speak to her about assault charges she filed against a top Paterson aide. It was outside State Police jurisdiction. (Cuomo investigated that one, too.)
And now this.
"Trooper #1" said Cuomo's "comments and physical touching" on several occasions were "inappropriate and offensive." These are detailed in the report. He asked why she didn't wear a dress. He'd seek her out and talked about sex, marriage and ages of potential girlfriends, she reported, and once invited her upstairs at the Executive Mansion.
Cuomo denies all inappropriate touching or remarks. But it won't work if he relies on the old technique of impugning the motives of accusers and investigators.
Late last year, the Albany Times Union contacted Cuomo's office questioning the experience exemption for "Trooper #1." Top adviser Melissa DeRosa was quoted as replying with preachy misdirection: "You guys are trying to reduce her hiring to being about looks. That’s what men do."
What Cuomo & Co. do is try to flip the script.
But whoever becomes governor next had better take heed: The police are there for security — not any politician's personal agenda.
Columnist Dan Janison's opinions are his own.