Maryland Senate panel OKs State Police chief nominee
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A state Senate panel voted 15-2 on Wednesday to approve the nomination of Lt. Col. Roland Butler as superintendent of the Maryland State Police, an agency under a federal discrimination probe. If confirmed by the full Senate, he would become the first Black person to hold the post.
Butler's appointment by Gov. Wes Moore had led to some concerns among members of the Executive Nominations Committee, where senators questioned whether Butler, a leader with nearly three decades at the agency, would be the right person to bring change and reforms.
Butler has served as chief of the State Police Field Operations Bureau, leading a force of more than 1,000 troopers and investigative personnel assigned to 23 barracks.
Despite the unwavering support of the state's first Black governor and the strong majority vote by the committee on Wednesday, Butler's nomination has not had an easy path.
Sen. Pam Beidle, who chairs the committee, told reporters Monday night after Butler addressed the panel that she wasn't sure if his appointment had the majority needed for approval at that time.
Before Wednesday's vote, Beidle said lawmakers would include language in the state budget requiring Butler to report to the committee and the Senate's budget committee about his progress in meeting goals. Two reports will be required, one on July 1 and another on Dec. 15, and $250,000 will be withheld in the superintendent's budget until they are received.
“I had a brief conversation with the governor this morning, and while the governor fully supports Col. Butler to be the next superintendent of our state police, he has goals and expectations for the colonel as do we as senators," said Beidle, an Anne Arundel County Democrat.
Beidle said goals Butler shared with committee members by email include increasing investment in recruitment and retention to rebuild the ranks and revitalize morale; reworking the agency to create more opportunities for advancement; and developing a promotion system that is merit-based, fair and transparent.
Other goals include increasing staffing and expertise in the agency's equity and inclusion office and establishing a discipline review team that “looks at cases for inconsistencies and response and other inequitable, questionable practices so that we can drive policy improvements and training opportunities,” Beidle said.
Questioned by senators Monday about how he planned to implement reforms, Butler said he was committed to moving the agency “into a new era.”
“It is my top priority,” Butler said. “I’ve heard your concerns and the concerns of your constituents, and I’m absolutely committed to addressing these issues head-on. To begin, we must acknowledge and address all bias and discriminatory practices.”
Carter Elliott, a spokesman for the Democratic governor, said Moore was “pleased to see such a well-qualified, historic candidate get out of the Senate Executive Nominations Committee with a strong majority of support.”
“With three decades of exemplary service in the Maryland Department of State Police, it’s clear Lt. Col. Butler is the best person to move the department forward,” Elliott said in a statement after the vote.
The full Senate vote on Butler’s confirmation could come later this week.
In October, three Maryland State Police officers filed a proposed federal class-action lawsuit against the department alleging widespread racial discrimination. The lawsuit alleges that the agency disciplines officers of color more harshly than white officers.
In July, the U.S. Justice Department announced an investigation to determine if the department engaged in racially discriminatory hiring and promotion.