Acting Maryland State Police Superintendent Lt. Col. Roland Butler told lawmakers Wednesday that a quota system for tickets and arrests was “inappropriate and blatantly wrong.”

Butler said that one barrack commander inappropriately tried to motivate troopers and it “morphed” into something agency leadership should have known about. Butler said top brass at the agency were unaware of the quotas until The Baltimore Banner published articles last month.

Barracks commanders and the higher-ups in the command staff have regular conversations about operations, and the quotas should have been discussed, Butler said in an interview in Annapolis on Wednesday. “Obviously, this fell through the cracks.”

Butler said that the top command staff had no knowledge of the quotas before they were raised by Baltimore County Del. Robin Grammer in a public hearing on Feb. 7 and published in an article by The Baltimore Banner on Feb. 8.

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Leaked internal documents showed Maryland State Police supervisors discussing a points-based system for troopers based on various metrics. At one Eastern Shore barrack, for example, a memo detailed how many traffic stops, citations, arrests and other actions would be required to meet monthly “expectations.”

“We know that a barrack commander, at least one, put out an inappropriate message. That message should have been caught immediately at the very next level of the administration. Unfortunately, it wasn’t,” Butler said. “When it did come to the attention of the executive command staff via the article, it was immediately dealt with.”

Butler said the acting chief of the Field Operations Bureau has since told barracks commanders that quotas are illegal and won’t be tolerated within the state police.

Further reporting from The Baltimore Banner on Feb. 13 revealed documents detailing quota-like systems in at least seven different State Police barracks.

When asked if he had a handle on the full scope of the problematic quotas, Butler responded: “It may have been happening in other barracks. I was only briefed on one.”

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Gov. Wes Moore, a Democrat, announced Butler as his pick to lead the State Police on Feb. 23.

Butler is coming out of a very brief retirement to lead the Maryland State Police. He retired at the end of 2022 after nearly three decades in the State Police, including his final position as chief of the Field Operations Bureau, which oversees all 23 State Police barracks, special operations and transportation safety.

He’s been making his rounds in Annapolis, where lawmakers are reviewing his agency’s budget and senators are deciding whether to vote to confirm him as State Police superintendent.

Butler faced pointed questions in a House of Delegates budget subcommittee hearing on Wednesday.

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“Culture starts at the top,” Del. Julian Ivey, a Prince George’s County Democrat, said flatly.

Ivey, who said he’s been racially profiled, asked if Butler could address the problem with quotas.

“I will never support a quota. It is illegal. It goes against MSP policy,” Butler responded. “Understanding the overarching goal is to ensure accountability and performance — a quota is not the way to do it.”

Ivey indicated that lawmakers might want to withhold part of the State Police budget as a means to put pressure on the top command staff to put an end to quota systems. But he said he wanted to make sure any budget action wouldn’t interfere with on-the-ground public safety work.

Republican Del. Joshua Stonko from Carroll County pressed for information on how high up information about the quotas went within the Maryland State Police command structure.

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“I think it may have stopped at that barrack commander, trooper commander level,” Butler said.

Del. Tony Bridges, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the subcommittee, wanted to know about problematic challenge coins that circulated among troopers. Challenge coins are small medallions often handed out as a commemorative token, and there have been allegations that ones with sexist and racist imagery were traded.

“Unfortunately, we have people that lack maturity and understanding to realize that they’re not throwing a pebble in a pond, and what they thought is amusing is not. It’s hurtful,” Butler said. “And not only is it hurtful, but you made a permanent reminder of whatever issue you thought was funny. I do not think it’s funny.”

Butler is also taking charge of an agency that’s under a federal civil rights investigation into potentially discriminatory hiring and promotion practices.

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

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Butler will be questioned by the Senate Executive Nominations Committee, which will vote on whether to move his confirmation forward to the full Senate for a final vote. His appearance before the committee hasn’t yet been scheduled.

The governor has expressed confidence that Butler was the right pick after an “exhaustive” search.

“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 last week.

Pamela Wood covers Maryland politics and government. She previously reported for The Baltimore Sun, The Capital and other Maryland newspapers. A graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, she lives in northern Anne Arundel County.

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