- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 19, 2003

When last I visited the decorated office of famed Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose, I couldn’t help but notice the display of elephants amid the congratulatory cards, cookies and balloons.

Odd, I thought. Why elephants? Chief Moose pointed to one figurine he was particularly fond of — a large white porcelain elephant that his wife, Sandy, bought during a special trip to San Francisco. It was prominently placed amid the colorful array of beastly mammals made of all manner of fabrics and materials. They all had one telltale feature in common: Their trunks were sticking straight up, a silent chorus of trumpets sounding the alarm that forecast some delightful or dangerous event.

Who knew? “I hope the old myth about the trunks being up is true, because I can use as much luck as I can get,” Chief Moose said with a sly smile during an interview shortly after the capture of the two sniper suspects. Well, it now seems that Chief Moose will be packing up his army of gentle giants to collect the predicted pot of gold at the end of the California rainbow. Hollywood beckoned. And, the masked Elephant Man succumbed to the “show me the money” casting call.

Who knew? I’d have bet the rent that this stoic career cop — who uncharacteristically shed tears when a child fell victim to the sniper’s scope — would have shunned the glam and the glory for the sake of the only job he’s coveted his entire adult life — that of chief of police.

Sadly, this is not the first time I’ve misjudged the character of a man. For in the end, Chief Moose put personal gain at public expense above his carefully crafted public persona and professional integrity.

He chose self above service. That is his right.

But it would have been wrong for him to remain on the job while he exercised that right.

Anyone can write anything they want and publish it whenever they want as long as they don’t break the law, jeopardize homeland security or otherwise compromise public safety in doing so.

In his choice to pen “Thirteen Days in November” — even before the first sniper suspect’s trial this fall — Chief Moose put himself in the compromising position of accomplishing all three of the aforementioned restrictions.

Best for him to get out now and give up this book battle that leaves a blemish on his badge.

For all the good he may have done during his tenure in Montgomery County, not the least of which was creating better racial relations between the department and the community, several of Chief Moose’s law enforcement counterparts and contemporaries have had less than glowing words to bestow upon him.

Some have publicly stated how unhappy they are about him writing about the sniper investigation for fear he may jeopardize the case with further pretrial publicity. During our November interview, when I asked him if he actually interrogated the sniper suspects himself after they practically turned themselves in, Chief Moose said he had not because “I chose the supervisory [career] path, not the detective path.”

Granted, I was not alone in being impressed and taken in by Chief Moose’s appearance of selfless servitude. He is still most beloved in some quarters.

While looking back over my notes, I repeatedly came across the words “participatory management style,” “cooperation” and “collaboration.” Will “my team” and “our task force” share in his monetary benefits, too? Not.

The Montgomery County ethics commission has a well-established rule against publishing by government employees while they are still on the job for well-thought out reasons that the panel correctly upheld. The commission voted against County Executive Douglas M. Duncan’s bid to grant Chief Moose an exception to that rule. End of story.

We just can’t have the top law enforcement officer breaking the laws on the books to suit himself. What kind of moral example does that set for the very children Chief Moose cries and cares for? And what kind of Pandora’s box would it open up if other government employees seek to gain personally from the sensitive or secret knowledge they obtain only through their public employ? We just can’t have civil servants striking personal pocketbook deals with the highest bidder. Then again, there’s the District, where bureaucrats apparently use their government-issued credit cards for selfish shopping sprees.

Oh, let’s not take that side trip today. However, here’s a silly suggestion: Maybe Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey could swap desks with Chief Moose. They could both get the extra cash they crave and still man their stations.

As for the chief’s civil rights? Sorry, Sandy, your hubby’s is not a case of civil rights violations or First Amendment infractions. As much as she clearly must love and support her husband, the green-eyed Mrs. did him a serious disservice by likening him to great humanitarians of Martin Luther King’s and Nelson Mandela’s stature.

It bordered on insult, as some Montgomery officers stated, that his wife compared Chief Moose’s personal fight to that of those gentle giants who fought not for royalty rights but for human rights.

Far be it for me to remind Chief Moose and his Mrs. that it was he who appeared before the glaring television cameras to denounce law enforcement leaks to the press.

And when I asked him about his well-documented temper that flared that day, he said, “I clearly wanted to send a message and state a message that I was angry,” because “release of information by law enforcement personnel is wrong.”

I wonder what that elegant array of elephants’ trunks is trumpeting now?

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