The Maryland Senate Executive Nominations Committee voted Wednesday afternoon to recommend the confirmation of retired Lt. Col. Roland Butler as superintendent of the Maryland State Police. If confirmed by the full Senate, Butler would become the first Black superintendent in the history of the agency.
In an unusual if not unique twist, Butler’s confirmation was tied to reporting requirements mandated by the committee. Should he be confirmed, the Senate would withhold a portion of the superintendent’s budget until those requirements are fulfilled.
“I had a brief conversation with the governor this morning and while the governor fully supports Colonel Butler to be the next superintendent of our state police, he has goals and expectations for the colonel, as do we senators,” said Senate Executive Nominations Chair Pamela Beidle (D-Anne Arundel), reading from a prepared statement before the vote.
“In response to this, there’ll be language in the budget requiring the superintendent nominee report to Executive Nominations and to the Budget & Tax committee about his progress to meeting these goals,” Beidle continued.
Butler promised senators he would work on improving opportunities for professional development and promotion — especially for Black officers, Beidle said, referencing an email she said was sent by the nominee.
In that email, Butler set additional goals including:
- Increase investment in recruitment and retention to rebuild our ranks and revitalize morale.
- Create more opportunities for advancement.
- Development of a merit-based promotion system “grounded in fairness and transparency.”
- Increase staffing and expertise in the Office of Equity and Inclusion to address trooper concerns and complaints in a more timely manner.
- Create a discipline review team to review cases for inconsistencies in response, and other “inequitable or questionable practices.”
Butler also vowed to meet with an association representing Black officers to further address concerns.
“Remember, these goals were sent to us by the superintendent. I understand there was input from the troopers,” Beidle told members of her committee.
The committee vote was 15-2. Prince George’s County Democratic Sens. James C. Rosapepe and Malcolm Augustine were the dissenting votes. They declined to comment after the meeting.
“Governor Moore is pleased to see such a well-qualified, historic candidate get out of the Senate Executive Nominations Committee with a strong majority of support,” said Carter Elliott, a Moore spokesperson. “With three decades of exemplary service in the Maryland Department of State Police, it’s clear Lt. Col. Butler is the best person to move the department forward.”
If Butler is confirmed by the full Senate, language will be added to the state budget requiring Butler to report progress on his goals.
The first of two reports would be due July 1. A second report would be due July 15.
Until the documents are received, $250,000 would be withheld from the superintendent’s budget. It’s unclear whether the restriction, which will be a part of ongoing budget negotiations, could have any meaningful impact on operations of the superintendent’s office.
The compromise could break a logjam that has stymied Butler’s confirmation for nearly a month.
The Executive Nominations Committee briefly postponed a recommendation on Butler after his confirmation hearing earlier this week.
Members of the committee said they wanted to review a long list of endorsements for the nominee, as well as letters in opposition to his confirmation.
Critics charge Butler, who was in a position of leadership within the agency, failed to do enough to address complaints of racism and disparate treatment of Black officers when it came to promotions and discipline.
The agency is currently the subject of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into discriminatory practices and a class-action lawsuit filed in October by three troopers.
Gov. Wes Moore (D) nominated Butler for the role in February. The administration has shown support for his confirmation ever since.
“We see Lt. Col. Butler’s nomination as an opportunity to bring in a leader who has also experienced some of the challenges that his fellow black state troopers are concerned about and he is therefore uniquely positioned to work in partnership with his colleagues to improve the agency,” a spokesman told Maryland Matters earlier this month.
Butler worked with the state police for nearly 30 years with his previous assignment as chief of the Field Operations Bureau, the most visible part of the agency of more than 1,000 troopers, who are assigned to 23 barracks statewide.