Skip to main content
Government & Politics

Moore’s pick to lead State Police faces tough battle for confirmation in Maryland Senate

Lt. Col. Roland Butler Jr. speaks during a Feb. 23 press conference after Gov. Wes Moore, right, announces Butler as his pick to lead the Maryland State Police. Photo by William J. Ford.

Gov. Wes Moore (D) is standing behind his nominee to lead the Maryland State Police, even as some lawmakers are pushing back on his nomination, in what is so far the biggest fight over a Cabinet-level appointment for the new administration.

Two weeks ago, Moore nominated Lt. Col. Roland L. Butler Jr. to serve as Maryland State Police superintendent. If confirmed he would be the first Black man to lead the agency.

Butler, however, faces a difficult 10 days leading into what will likely be a March 20 appearance before the Senate Executive Nominations Committee.

Sen. Joanne C. Benson (D-Prince George’s). Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Sen. Joanne C. Benson (D-Prince George’s), in an interview, said Butler, who at one time was chief of the agency’s Field Operations Bureau, was unresponsive to concerns about how Black troopers were disciplined and complaints about racism within the agency.

Benson, joined by Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s) and others, aired concerns about Butler during a recent meeting of Senate Democrats.

Benson said she has received numerous complaints from current and former Maryland state troopers who said Butler was part of an agency leadership that ignored a hostile work environment that punished some who fell out of favor. Among the documents she’s received is an eight-page document outlining concerns laid out by a group of Black troopers.

“They have no confidence at all,” Benson said of troopers to whom she and Del. Darryl Barnes (D-Prince George’s) spoke. “And the reason why they don’t have any confidence, it’s because of these 12 years that I’ve been working with them and that Delegate Barnes has been working with them.”

“And the stories were basically the same,” she said. “I’m not talking about a couple police officers. I’m talking about 15, 20, 25 of those officers who sat down with us and some of them cried.”

A spokesperson for Moore provided a written statement Friday in defense of Butler’s nomination.

“Governor Moore is confident in Lt. Col. Butler’s ability to lead the Maryland State Police, and stands by his decision to appoint him as the first African American to ever serve as the Superintendent of the Maryland State Police,” Carter Elliott IV said.

“Like every appointment nomination, Lt. Col. Butler is going through the process of meeting with legislators to seek their feedback and support. We see Lt. Col. Butler’s nomination as an opportunity to bring in a leader who has also experienced some of the challenges that his fellow black state troopers are concerned about and he is therefore uniquely positioned to work in partnership with his colleagues to improve the agency,” the statement concluded.

The confirmation fight over Butler follows the filing of a class action lawsuit in October by three troopers against the department citing a pattern of widespread racial discrimination.

Three months earlier, the United States Department of Justice launched an investigation into discriminatory practices within the agency.

Benson said Butler was present in meetings she and others had with state police commanders over the last decade.

“We’ve tried to talk to not only the state superintendent, but anybody there who would listen and he (Butler) was in a position of authority,” said Benson. “And he became a part of the problem.”

Benson said Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) encouraged her to meet with Butler.

“It’s too late for him to talk to me now,” said Benson, adding that she was unaware of the governor consulting with lawmakers about Butler before he made the nomination.

The concerns of Benson and others have caused some senators to take a deeper look at Butler.

“I’m very concerned about that appointment,” said Senate Executive Nominations Chair Sen. Pam Beidle (D-Anne Arundel). “…I think if the governor goes forward with that, it’s going to be a very difficult meeting and very difficult for the session.”

“There’s so many people that are expressing opposition that — I like things to go smooth,” said Beidle. “I’d like to say: Are there any questions? Let’s make a motion. Let’s move on. I don’t know that it’s going to go that way.”

Still, Beidle said she couldn’t predict Butler’s fate.

“I’ve heard from a few senators but not enough to kill the appointment at this point,” she said. “Now that could change with the hearing.”

Even if Butler can get the votes in committee, the outcome on the floor, where 24 votes are needed for confirmation, is uncertain.

Sen. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore City) said he wants to give Butler a chance to answer the concerns raised by Benson and others.

“I value my colleagues’ concerns and it weighs heavy on my decision making,” McCray said. “I would also be fair and hear from the nominee to understand his point of view and goals for the organization.”

And while Butler makes the rounds meeting with senators, Appointments Secretary Tisha Edwards met with members of the Legislative Black Caucus “to air our grievances,” said Muse.

Muse declined to go into specifics but said he and other members outlined several concerns adding there would be “several conversations and correspondence with the administration over the next few days.”

After that, the caucus would eventually decide whether to support the nomination — Muse guessed that would probably happen next Thursday.

Sen. Antonio Hayes (D-Baltimore City) said he met with Butler on Friday morning. He described the nominee as “a good guy” who was candid in responding to his questions.

“I think some of it is, from what I gather, he’s bearing the burden of rising in leadership,” said Hayes, who is also vice chair of the Senate Executive Nominations Committee. “Some people may be making the assumption that because he was in leadership, that he was complicit. And I get like, being an African American and being in those environments in those cultures, its hard to be successful. You have to choose your battles sometimes.”

But Hayes acknowledged he had not yet made up his mind on Butler.

“I don’t think I’m quite there, yet,” he said.

Danielle E. Gaines and Josh Kurtz contributed to this report.


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our website. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

If you have any questions, please email [email protected].

To republish, copy the following text and paste it into your HTML editor.


Creative Commons License AttributionCreative Commons Attribution
Moore’s pick to lead State Police faces tough battle for confirmation in Maryland Senate