Gov. Wes Moore is turning to a Maryland State Police veteran, Lt. Col. Roland Butler, to lead an agency that’s dealing with serious problems, ranging from an investigation into racist hiring policies to allegations of a quota-based ticket system for troopers.

Moore, a Democrat, announced Butler’s nomination during a State House news conference on Thursday, and his name will be sent to the Maryland Senate for a confirmation vote.

“I said: I want the person who is the best and the person who I felt both understood the challenges that existed within the organization, but also had the core vision and the fortitude to be able to help lead us through,” Moore said.

Moore praised Butler as a trooper who “rose through the ranks” and understands the culture and challenges within the Maryland State Police. After an “exhaustive search,” Butler was the clear choice, the governor said.

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Butler has spent nearly 29 years with the Maryland State Police, according to his online resume. His most recent assignment was leading the Field Operations Bureau, which oversees all of the state police barracks, special operations and transportation safety.

Butler would take over an agency that’s facing serious issues, many tied to allegations of racism and discrimination within a department that’s overwhelmingly white. Butler is Black and would be the agency’s first Black leader.

“I intend to meet these all of these issues head on,” Butler said. “Good, bad or indifferent, we can become better.”

Some Maryland State Police supervisors demanded troopers hit targets for numbers of traffic stops and arrests, according to internal emails and memos reviewed by The Baltimore Banner.

The documents reveal a quota-like system under which troopers were praised or disciplined, depending on how well they measured up. The documents reviewed by The Baltimore Banner span seven of the state’s 23 Maryland State Police barracks.

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There’s evidence that some barracks used a point system to grade troopers, with varying point levels assigned to actions such as DUI arrests and traffic stops. In one barrack, the points system was used to determine which troopers got new cars.

“I will not support quotas. I will not support inappropriate behavior,” Butler said. “We’re here to safeguard the communities and the people within Maryland. We will do our very best. I will hold people accountable.”

Roland Butler, who has been nominated to be superintendent of the Maryland State Police, speaks during a press conference at the State House in Annapolis on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023. He's flanked by Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller, left, and Gov. Wes Moore, right.
Roland Butler, who has been nominated to be superintendent of the Maryland State Police, speaks during a press conference at the State House in Annapolis on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023. He's flanked by Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller, left, and Gov. Wes Moore, right. (Pamela Wood/The Baltimore Banner)

Meanwhile, the agency is also the target of a U.S. Department of Justice civil rights investigation into potentially discriminatory hiring and promotion practices that was publicly announced last summer.

Several Black troopers are also suing the agency, alleging discrimination in disciplinary decisions.

The department is overwhelmingly white: In 2021, NBC4 in Washington reported that among more than 1,400 troopers, more than 1,200 identified as white and 172 were Black.

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And the state police have faced scrutiny for allegations of sexist and racist “challenge coins” being exchanged among troopers and racist imagery on a target at a shooting range.

Sgt. Anthony Alexander, president of the Coalition of Black Maryland State Troopers, said some members are displeased with the pick of Butler, while others are supportive.

“We’re still processing it,” Alexander said. “We definitely want to see what happens.”

The Maryland Troopers Association, a fraternal organization composed of active and retired troopers, offered support for Butler as superintendent.

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“It’s great to see a leader appointed who has been through the same academy, training and experiences as those he commands in the State Police,” wrote Brian Blubaugh, the association’s president, in an email.

Brian Gill — president of the union that represents troopers, the State Law Enforcement Officers Labor Alliance — wrote in an email that the union will continue to support the governor and work with management at the Maryland State Police to “move the agency forward in a manner that is fair for all employees and provides the best services for the community in which we serve.”

As Moore announced Butler as the next leader of the Maryland State Police, he also said he plans to have the state police take on a more significant role in combating violent crime.

Moore noted that he’s put more money in his budget for the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center, a state-run center that shares criminal intelligence data across law enforcement agencies. He also touted funding for various other grants and aid to police agencies.

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“The Maryland State Police is the vanguard of law enforcement in our state,” Moore said.

The agency has been without a permanent leader since the end of 2022, when Col. Woodrow “Jerry” Jones retired after nearly three years in the position, which carries the titles of both “secretary” and “superintendent” of the state police.

When Jones announced his retirement, then-Gov. Larry Hogan said that Butler would serve in an acting capacity starting Jan. 1.

“Lt. Colonel Butler exemplifies the core State Police values of integrity, fairness, and service, and he plays a critical role every day in keeping our communities safe,” Hogan, a Republican, said in a statement at that time.

But Butler, as well as Lt. Col. Norman W. Dofflemyer, retired themselves. Lt. Col. Dalaine M. Brady, who was chief of the support services bureau, took over.

Brady was pulled over by a state trooper running radar on Interstate 95 on Jan. 20, but the incident lasted mere seconds before the trooper ended the stop and wished Brady a good day.

A state police spokesperson said in a statement Brady was not issued a citation after the trooper had taken “into account the totality of the circumstances.” The statement did not elaborate on what circumstances were taken into account.

Baltimore Banner reporter Dylan Segelbaum contributed to this article.

pamela.wood@thebaltimorebanner.com