Moore announces Roland Butler Jr. as nominee to lead the Maryland State Police
Gov. Wes Moore (D) announced Thursday his nomination of Lt. Col. Roland L. Butler Jr. to lead the Maryland State Police, an agency that faces a federal probe of alleged discriminatory hiring and promotional practices against Black troopers.
Butler, who served as acting superintendent since January under former Gov. Larry Hogan (R), takes over after Col. Woodrow “Jerry” Jones III after he announced his retirement at the end of last year. If confirmed by the Maryland Senate, he will be the first Black person to lead the agency.
“It’s truly an honor to step forward and be able to take the reins of the Maryland State Police and lead the women and men on a mission that…will improve the quality of life of citizens across the state,” Butler said during a press conference inside the State House in Annapolis. “This will not be easy, but the women and men of the Maryland State Police are prepared for this and are fully capable of making an impact and improving the quality of life of citizens across the state and those that travel to our state.”
Butler has worked with the state police for nearly 30 years with his previous assignment as chief of the Field Operations Bureau, the most visible part of the agency of more than 1,000 troopers, who are assigned to 23 barracks statewide.
Moore called Butler “a professional” with “courage, fortitude, resilience, understanding and compassion” in his service to the 102-year-old agency.
“In short, Roland’s a professional,” the governor said. “He has the background, the knowledge and the character to lead the Maryland State Police as it carries out this critical mission.”
Besides handling day-to-day operations, Butler must also endure a federal investigation announced last year by the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. attorney’s office in the District of Maryland. Former Del. Erek Barron became Maryland’s U.S. attorney in October 2021.
State lawmakers, including members of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, heard complaints from Black troopers that highlighted fewer Black officers hired and disciplined more than their white counterparts.
Two Black state troopers and another of Black and Puerto Rican descent filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in October against the state police. According to the suit, they claim the agency cultivated policies and procedures against officers of color and allowed a hostile work environment where officers of color saw “a paper training dummy at a MSP shooting range with a black face Afro wig for officers to shoot at [and]…a commemorative coin with the phrase ‘Make Waldorf Great Again.’”
According to a recent report from The Baltimore Banner, a state police barracks on the Eastern Shore conducted a quota-like system to reward officers who “meet monthly expectations” for traffic stops, arrests and other metrics.
“I will not support quotas. I will not support inappropriate behavior,” Butler said Thursday. “We’re here to safeguard the communities and the people within Maryland. We will do our very best. I will hold people accountable. My executive staff will hold me accountable.”
Butler must also endure other challenges the governor laid out.
The class size of troopers in the academy averages 35, compared to at least 80 in previous years. Moore said a recent class he visited had only 19.
About 80 state troopers left the agency last year, with only 47 seeking employment, he said.
“Like the rest of state government, law enforcement and public safety have struggled to rebuild its ranks,” Moore said. “To rebuild the state police force, we must elevate the profession, invest in training and development of our troopers, and do all we can to elevate a culture that retains, advances and rewards the most effective and ethical law enforcement professionals.”
Also in attendance at the press conference was Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller (D); Carolyn Scruggs, secretary of public safety and correctional services; Vincent Schiraldi, confirmed Tuesday by the Senate to head the Department of Juvenile Services; and Harold “Bud” Frank, deputy chief of staff in the governor’s office for public safety.