Detroit's two top civic leaders -- Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and schools Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Burnley -- get more personal security than almost any other Michigan public figures.
Most political honchos make do with a driver or an assistant at most, far less than the around-the-clock forces that roll with and watch over Kilpatrick and Burnley.
According to interviews last week with area public officials or their staffs, only Gov. Jennifer Granholm's security unit is in the same league, but it still doesn't match Kilpatrick's team.
Neither Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox nor Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land has personal protection. They do have assistants who travel with them outside Lansing.
Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel said he "would not waste taxpayers' money" unless there was a specific threat. The use of bodyguards is sometimes "more ego than anything else," he said.
Phil Frame, a county spokesman, said no county commissioner -- including Chair Nancy White -- has protection. "I don't think there's much need for it, either," he said. In Wayne County, County Executive Robert Ficano has a driver who also acts as security. When he was Wayne County sheriff, Ficano could be seen driving by himself, waving to acquaintances.
Current Sheriff Warren Evans usually drives himself, but on occasion, does have a driver.
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson does much of his own driving, which has led to some well-publicized motoring adventures: He once hung up his car on railroad tracks and another time, he was stopped for erratic driving.
He now uses a driver, but the position is not full time.
Granholm "has a detail," gubernatorial spokeswoman Liz Boyd said last week. "We tend not to talk too much about it for security reasons."
Plainclothes officers are with Granholm at all public appearances. Lesser protection is provided for her husband and children. The governor's unit has fewer than a dozen members, according to people associated with past administrations. But that's only about half the size of the unit that surrounds the Detroit mayor.
Kilpatrick has about 21 officers on his detail, according to the city. The unit's size -- one of the largest in the country -- and the members' behavior and public spending have been a source of ongoing controversy.
Burnley, who has overseen the volatile state takeover of the troubled Detroit Public Schools district, has two teams protecting him on the job and at his home. The home detail is backed up by surveillance equipment.
The protection for Burnley began in 2000 after an intruder barged into his home. A patio door also was shot out.
Private security experts said that public officials, especially ones dealing with layoffs and budget cuts, should take precautions, but that said, some officials go overboard.
Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani drew flak when he vacationed with his bodyguards, said Michael Sapraicone, president of the Wall Street-based Squad Security.
"As a citizen, I look at bodyguards and ask where my money is going when it might be used to hire more teachers or buy school books," he said.
"But these are important people making important decisions," he said. "You have to look at the threat and then decide what is really necessary."
Ned Timmons, president of the security firm LSS Consulting in Walled Lake, said that in a time of drastic cuts in government payrolls, "public officials are making decisions that effect thousands of lives."
Government employees or their relatives caught in budget squeezes may decide to confront officials and situations could get out of hand.
"You never know what stresses some people are under and how they may react," Sapraicone said.