With 'no recommendation,' panel sends Pa. police nominee to full Senate
HARRISBURG — Col. Marcus Brown's nomination moves to the full Senate because a committee Wednesday took “no position” on whether to confirm Gov. Tom Wolf's nominee to head the Pennsylvania State Police.
Republicans in the Senate Law and Justice Committee grilled Brown on topics from wearing the state police uniform to personal tax issues and whether he “bent the law” in some circumstances. Democratic senators praised his experience, record on diversity and track record heading the Maryland state police.
“I follow the law,” Brown, 50, said in response to questions from Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Williamsport.
A vote could be held early next week, Senate GOP spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said.
If confirmed, Brown will oversee 4,365 troopers and about 2,000 support personnel in an agency with a roughly $240 million budget. He is acting commissioner.
His goals for the agency, Brown said, include reducing violent crime; traffic enforcement, especially aggressive driving; homeland security; and supporting local law enforcement. Asked whether he supports the Second Amendment, Brown said he would not advocate for restrictive gun laws.
Sen. John Rafferty, R-Chester County, asked Brown if he supports Wolf's moratorium on the death penalty, which Rafferty said bypasses the legislature and courts.
“The death penalty is on the books,” said Brown. “I support the death penalty.”
Sen. Anthony Williams of Philadelphia, a Democrat like Wolf, considered the question irrelevant, because the governor signs death warrants.
“I could ask, ‘How do we get to the moon?' Who gives a damn?” said Williams, who complained that politics fueled opposition to Brown.
A Central Pennsylvania native, Brown rose to deputy commissioner for operations, the No. 2 position, in the Baltimore Police Department after heading its organized crime, special operations, SWAT and internal affairs units.
Williams praised Brown for making Maryland a national leader in “recruiting people of color.” He said opposition stems from Brown not “representing the good old boys' club.”
Retired troopers have criticized Brown for wearing the state police uniform without being an academy graduate. He was an academy instructor in Maryland.
“I wear the uniform because it honors the men and women engaged every single day,” said Brown, who wore civilian clothes to the hearing. “Across the country, the vast majority of law enforcement are headed by someone outside the agency, and the vast majority wear the uniform.”
Former Trooper Anthony DeLuca posted signs critical of Brown in a public right-of-way and videotaped Brown removing them. They were near his Mechanicsburg home, Brown said.
“I had concerns for my family,” he told the lawmakers. “Parents and senators I've spoken with have told me they would react the same way.”
An investigation of the incident by Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed “made clear my concerns were with my family,” Brown said. Freed said Brown didn't commit theft because the signs were on public land but that he should have walked away.
DeLuca committed a technical violation that's never enforced by placing signs in the right of way, Freed said last month.
The tax issue concerns homestead exemptions Brown claimed on properties in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The provision that lets residents deduct a portion of their home's value from their tax bill is meant to apply to a primary residence.
Brown said claiming the exemption in both states is legal and that his total tax break — $58 for his wife and $36 for him — wasn't enough money to treat his family to dinner. His wife worked in Pennsylvania while he pursued his police career in Maryland.
“He answered questions in a very straightforward manner,” said Jeffrey Sheridan, Wolf's spokesman. “It's absolutely not the case” that Brown has a history of bending rules, Sheridan said.
Afterward, Brown told reporters he was pleased with how the hearing proceeded.
“I'm back in Pennsylvania. I love this state,” he said.
Brown is the third of Wolf's nominees to go to the full Senate for a confirmation vote without a committee recommendation. A committee's vote of “no recommendation” is somewhat unusual, since Senate committees approve most nominees.
Pedro Cortes, Wolf's secretary of the Commonwealth, received a “no confidence” vote in committee, but won full Senate confirmation Tuesday.
John Quigley won Senate approval Wednesday as environmental protection secretary after a committee passed along his nomination without a recommendation.
Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. He can be reached at 717-787-1405 or email@example.com.