- Associated Press - Monday, June 15, 2015

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Gov. Tom Wolf said Monday he will seek a new nominee to become the Pennsylvania State Police commissioner, one of two concessions the Democrat made to start the week after a string of legislative and legal setbacks.

Wolf’s concessions come amid efforts to narrow considerable differences over state finances with Republican lawmakers and secure a budget agreement.

Col. Marcus Brown spoke over the weekend with the governor and agreed that it was time to move on, said Wolf’s press secretary, Jeff Sheridan. Brown’s nomination was defeated in the Senate last week, the first such rejection of a nominee in at least two decades.

Following the vote, Wolf suggested he could keep Brown as acting police commissioner indefinitely, prompting a strong reaction from Senate Republicans and foreshadowing a court battle.

But Wolf softened his stance on Brown hours after another reversal in a different fight with the Senate GOP. Wolf agreed to reinstate the director of Pennsylvania’s open records office while the state’s highest court weighs whether he had the right to fire him.

Neither issue had come up during budget talks, Sheridan said, although he did not rule out the possibility that they could have emerged later.

“But the governor does want to focus on the budget,” Sheridan said.

In a statement, Wolf accused the Senate GOP of playing politics with the nomination of Brown, a former Maryland State Police superintendent and the No. 2 officer in the Baltimore Police Department.

“Despite Marcus’ vast and unquestioned qualifications, the Senate wrongfully rejected his nomination in a move that put politics above the best interests of the people of Pennsylvania, and it is now appropriate to select a new nominee to lead the Pennsylvania State Police,” Wolf said in the statement.

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said friction from the two issues had not hindered budget negotiations.

“If you’re doing a budget, you can’t be weighed down by other issues,” Corman said. “You’ve got to do your job and that’s the budget. I’m glad he did this, I thanked him for doing it, I think it was the right thing to do to honor our role in the process.”

Brown’s rejection last Monday in a near party-line vote, 26-22, capped a campaign by retired and current state troopers to eject him from the job atop one of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies.

Brown, 50, began ruffling feathers when he became acting police commissioner in January with his decision to wear the state police uniform, rather than plainclothes, while on the job.

Despite 25 years in law enforcement, Brown had not graduated from the State Police Academy, as every trooper must, and some retired troopers felt Brown had not earned the right to wear the uniform.

Brown also inflamed conservative critics and retired troopers by voicing liberal notions of law enforcement, including supporting Maryland’s tighter restrictions on ammunition and firearms and suggesting that the militarization of police inflames civil disobedience.

The state troopers’ union came out in opposition to Brown’s nomination after a retired state trooper who planted roadside signs near Brown’s house filmed him uprooting them. The signs referred to the uniform, reading “Marcus Brown didn’t earn it!” and “Marcus Brown don’t wear it!”

The union’s opposition prompted Republican senators to question how Brown could lead the agency without the rank-and-file’s support.

Democrats defended Brown as eminently qualified and suggested Republicans were putting forth a parade of excuses to avoid confirming a man who was vocal about improving diversity in the overwhelmingly white department.

Brown will remain as acting police commissioner until Wolf selects a new nominee, the governor said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide