Moore is working to shore up the state police nominee ahead of the all-important hearing

Lt. Col. Roland Butler Jr. speaks during a news conference February 23 after Governor Wes Moore (right) announced Butler as his choice to head the Maryland State Police. Photo by William J Ford.

Gov. Wes Moore (D) is working to shore up a beleaguered historic nomination ahead of a Senate hearing on 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 in the retired Maryland State Police lieutenant colonel to become the organization’s first black superintendent.

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

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

When asked if Butler’s endorsement was part of that agreement, Morris, the organization’s president, replied, “It’s not part of the plan.”

Morris directed reporters back to the governor’s office for details of the meeting and any arrangements regarding Butler.

Carter Elliott, a spokesman for Moore, declined to answer questions about Morris’ testimony 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 from 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 package of letters of support Friday afternoon, which was sent to members of the Senate Executive Nominating Committee.

The nearly two dozen letters were sent from across the state by current and former law enforcement agencies, 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, Chairman of the Prince George’s County NAACP Criminal Justice Committee.

“Governor Moore is confident that Lt. Col. Butler can lead the Maryland State Police,” said Elliott. “His three-decade career with the Maryland State Police prepares him well to serve as superintendent and advance the department.”

Butler is one of two high-profile appointments remaining in limbo in the closing days of Moore’s first term, the other being Maria Martinez, who was selected to serve on the Maryland Stadium Authority board.

Earlier this month, black senators led by Senator Joanne Benson criticized Butler, who was once head of the agency’s Field Operations Bureau, for not responding to concerns about disciplining black soldiers. She also criticized his handling of complaints of racism within the agency.

The agency is facing a class-action lawsuit filed by three police officers against the department in October, citing a pattern of widespread racial discrimination.

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

Following Benson’s (D-Prince George’s) comments, the government met with a group of black senators to hear concerns. Butler has also been spotted in Annapolis in recent weeks to meet with lawmakers.

“I think (Butler) has put in a lot of work to address concerns that senators have raised,” said Senate Speaker Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City). “We’ll see how it goes. I think Monday is a very, very important day for the Superintendent to lay out a plan, point by point, as to how he intends to really reform an agency that has been struggling on various fronts with settled race issues of late , you know, sweater quota issues and stops on deductible promotions.”

However, Ferguson declined to say how he would vote.

“I want to see how Monday goes. I think Monday is a really important date again. My guess is to support the gubernatorial nominees. I think the manager deserves to pick the team he wants unless there’s something very outrageous or obvious,” he said.

Ferguson dodged questions Friday about how much help he was giving Moore to confirm Butler.

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

On Friday, Sen. Pamela G. Beidle (D-Anne Arundel), the chair of the Senate nominations committee, said Butler’s situation could be improving.

“I think so,” said Beidle.

Butler is expected to appear before her committee Monday night, the latest in a long list of nominations by Moore.

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


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