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Moore works to shore up state police nominee in advance of key hearing

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 working to shore up a beleaguered historic nomination in advance of a Senate hearing Monday.

The governor met with members of the Coalition of Black Maryland State Troopers for about 90 minutes Friday to discuss Roland Butler Jr.

Moore tapped the retired Maryland State Police lieutenant colonel to become the first Black superintendent of the organization.

The meeting with Moore, which included Butler, comes days before a key hearing in the final two weeks of the session.

Rodney Morris, a retired state police officer and one of four representatives of the Coalition of Black Maryland State Troopers that met with the governor, declined to provide details of the closed-door meeting other than to say, “we have a plan.”

When asked if Butler’s confirmation was part of that agreement, Morris, president of the organization, responded: “That’s not part of the plan.”

Morris referred reporters back to the governor’s office for details on the meeting and any agreements on Butler.

Carter Elliott, a Moore spokesperson, declined to answer questions about Morris’ statement or agreements with the troopers’ association.

“Governor Moore had a productive meeting today with the Coalition of Black State Troopers and Lt. Col. Roland Butler,” Elliott said in a statement. “Lt. Col. Butler takes the suggestions provided by the troopers and other stakeholders seriously, and knows their voices are critical to making much needed changes in the department.”

The governor’s office also released a packet of letters of support sent to members of the Senate Executive Nominations Committee on Friday afternoon.

The nearly two-dozen letters were sent by current and past law enforcement leaders from around the state including Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael Harrison and Woodrow W. “Jerry” Jones III and Col. William M. Pallozzi, the two immediate past superintendents of the Maryland State Police, and Reginald A. Lawson, chair of the criminal justice committee of the Prince George’s County NAACP.

“Governor Moore is confident in Lt. Col. Butler’s ability to lead the Maryland State Police,” said Elliott. “His three decade career in the Maryland State Police makes him well-prepared to serve as superintendent and move the department forward.”

Butler is one of two high-profile appointments that remain in limbo in the closing days of Moore’s first legislative session, the other being Maria Martinez, who was picked for the Maryland Stadium Authority board.

Earlier this month Black Senators led by Sen. Joanne Benson criticized Butler, who at one time was chief of the agency’s Field Operations Bureau, as being unresponsive to concerns about how Black troopers were disciplined. She was also critical of his handling of complaints about racism within the agency.

The agency faces a class action lawsuit filed 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.

Following the comments from Benson (D-Prince George’s), the administration met with a group of Black senators to hear concerns. Butler was also seen in recent weeks in Annapolis to meet with lawmakers.

“I think there’s been a lot of work put in by (Butler) to to address concerns that senators have brought forward,” said Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City). “We’ll see how it goes. I think Monday is very, very important day for the superintendent to lay out a plan point by point of how he intends to really reform an agency that has been struggling of late on a number of different fronts via done issues around race, you know, issues of the quota system of pullovers and stops on promotions on retention.”

Ferguson, however, declined to say how he would vote.

“I want to see how Monday goes. I think Monday, again, is really an important date. My presumption is to support the governor’s nominees. I think that the executive deserves to pick the team that he wants, unless there is something very egregious or clear,” he said.

Ferguson sidestepped questions on Friday about how much help he was providing to Moore to get Butler confirmed.

“I think each member is independently elected,” said Ferguson. “That’s the beauty of the Senate.”

On Friday, the Senate Executive Nominations Chair Sen. Pamela G. Beidle (D-Anne Arundel) said Butler’s situation may be improving.

“I think it has,” said Beidle.

Butler is expected to appear before her committee on Monday evening, the last of a lengthy list of nominations by Moore.

A vote by the committee, however, could be delayed a few days, Beidle said.


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Moore works to shore up state police nominee in advance of key hearing