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Brown withdraws name from consideration to lead Pa. state police

| Monday, June 15, 2015, 1:47 p.m.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf appointed Col. Marcus Brown on Thursday as director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf appointed Col. Marcus Brown on Thursday as director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security.

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf's choice for commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police withdrew his name from consideration Monday.

Wolf said Col. Marcus Brown would continue as acting commissioner until the governor selects another nominee.

Wolf described Brown as “the type of leader that Pennsylvania would be lucky to have.” Despite his “vast and unquestioned qualifications,” Wolf said, “the Senate wrongfully rejected his nomination in a move that put politics above the best interests of the people of Pennsylvania.”

In a brief statement acknowledging his withdrawal, Brown thanked the governor for the opportunity.

“It has been an honor leading the state police, and the men and women of this organization are of the highest caliber,” he said.

Republicans last week refused to honor Wolf's request to recall Brown's nomination and denied him confirmation to head the agency with 4,500 troopers. The vote against Brown was 26-22. Three Republicans voted with Senate Democrats after a contentious debate that focused on Brown's judgment.

“Wolf had confidence in him,” said Philip Harold, political science professor at Robert Morris University in Moon. “It didn't work out. (Wolf) needs to move on.”

Brown's withdrawal was by mutual agreement, said Jeffrey Sheridan, Wolf's spokesman.

Asked whether Wolf decided to seek someone else because of the June 30 deadline for a state budget, Sheridan said: “The governor is very much focused on the budget.”

It was a rare move for the Senate to vote down a governor's nominee, senators said. It last happened in the 1990s.

Senate GOP leaders respect Brown for his decision, spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said.

“We look forward to reviewing Gov. Wolf's future candidate for state police commissioner,” she said. The state constitution “provides a specific process for the nomination and confirmation of many state appointments such as this,” she said, with “a full vetting of candidates, including hearings, questioning and votes by the full Senate body.”

Brown, a Central Pennsylvania native, began his career as a beat cop in San Jose, Calif. He commanded a SWAT unit in Baltimore and was the city's deputy commissioner for internal affairs. He led the Maryland Transportation Authority police force before becoming superintendent of the Maryland State Police.

Brown's opponents in the Senate cited lingering questions about his actions, such as removing yard signs that criticized him from a public right-of-way. The signs were put up by an ex-trooper who took Brown to task for wearing the state police uniform even though he did not attend the academy.

Brown has since said he removed the signs with his children in mind and that he “made a mistake.” He wears the uniform to honor those who wear it, he told senators.

Wolf said he will look for another leader who can build on the agency's traditions “while looking for opportunities to ensure that the force reflects the diversity of Pennsylvania.” The governor had commended Brown for diversifying the Maryland State Police.

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com.

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