So Maryland’s Montgomery County Police Chief has been forced to resign in order to write a book. The travails of Chief Charles Moose have become national news, with an ethics commission insisting he may not profit from his duties as overseer of the search for the East Coast snipers; in other words he may not write his proposed account of the events of last October that saw 10 people killed from ambush and 3 wounded in the area of the nation’s capital. Nor may he consult on a proposed movie deal, or take advantage of lucrative speaking opportunities. (The day after his resignation takes effect he has what’s described as a $20,000 engagement with a Building Management outfit in San Francisco.)
The book deal, signed in January, calls for a reported $170,000 advance and a royalty of four bucks a book — not Hillaryesque, but not bad as a spin-off from his regular job. There is the area where no reporter dare tread: his job. As in all cases these days, Chief Moose basked in the fact that at long last the alleged snipers were caught. Never mind exactly how and by whom. Since he was in charge of a massive force involving the FBI, the ATF and an army of state and local officers, Moose automatically ensnared the credit of a relieved citizenry when the collar was made.
He was feted, paraded, and small children brought him floral offerings. Forgotten were some unpleasant details as the snipers were dropping their victims. When some minor detail of a shooting was leaked and reported, a churlish Moose declared no one had appointed the media to catch the crooks, and he named some TV station offenders. Frequently, his regularly scheduled press conferences were also attended by politicians of national and local office who were allowed to bask in the Mooselight and self-serve.
The ubiquitous professional profilers had declared the sniper in all probability a white male acting alone. Based on an early eyewitness account, Chief Moose spread an all-points bulletin for a white box truck. After a couple of weeks during which time it became clear that on any given day there were hundreds of white box trucks plying the area streets and byways, the truck morphed into a Chevy van, also white, but with a ladder rack on top. These too sped through the area in untold numbers, while the killers plied their grisly trade in a dark sedan, unmolested.
Chief Moose at times was non-communicative to the public during his near-daily conferences, at least once sending what was plain to all was a message to the killers who had communicated with authorities. As it turned out, one of the actual killers had called the local police only to be brushed off and told to call a hotline number where scores of FBI employees were taking “tips.”
Montgomery County police collected some 70,000 so-called tips and at last report were determined to spend time following them up. Though the snipers were long-caught, it was felt that maybe the tipsters had some criminal information about their neighbors and the multifarious leads should be followed up!
The night the alleged snipers were caught napping in their dark sedan parked in a rest stop in upper Maryland it was due to media having lifted the license plate information from police communications which Moose himself had not divulged. A trucker heard the media broadcasts and saw the sedan. And the rest, as they say, is history — well, not quite.
Chief Moose basked in the limelight, made the book deal, was stoutly defended in his right to publish by his mentor, county executive Douglas Duncan, who had hired him in the first place. When Moose resigned, he was appealing the ethics commission ruling barring his profiting from the proposed book, an issue that may or may not be rendered moot by his resignation. The book, already posted for pre-orders at Amazon.com, is to be titled “Three Weeks In October,” and not as one wag suggested, “The White Box Truck.”
There are other problems. The book’s publication date nearly coincides with the trial date set for the younger of the two accused killers, raising the hackles of the defense attorneys. Additionally, Chief Moose is now on active duty with the District of Columbia Air National Guard, commanding an outfit charged with security for the F-16s that fly combat air patrol in guarding the nation’s capital from terrorists. He’s been activated since March and expects to be so until next June. When was there time to write a book?