HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A retired state policeman and prominent Midstater who prefers to remain anonymous told ABC 27 that in 50 years he’s never seen such criticism of a state police commissioner nominee as Marcus Brown has been getting.
Some of the disdain comes from those who feel Brown is an outsider. While it’s true that he didn’t rise through the ranks of the PSP, he’s also not an outsider.
“I am definitely a Pennsylvania guy,” said Brown in his office Thursday afternoon.
He mostly grew up in the Indian Creek development in Hampden Township, Cumberland County. Brown, 50, went to middle school there and graduated from Cumberland Valley High School in 1983. He’s also a Penn State graduate.
“In many ways this is coming home for me,” he said.
But it hasn’t been a “Welcome Home” for Marcus Brown.
Current and former troopers have taken to a Facebook page called “He didn’t earn it, he shouldn’t wear it.” They are upset at Brown’s decision to wear a state police uniform when he never graduated from its academy.
Brown said he pursued a career opportunity in the Baltimore Police Department 20 years ago and then became the head of the Maryland State Police.
The Facebook campaign is full of anger and vitriol. One writer suggests that Brown should be ashamed and another calls him a clown. Those are some of the more subdued postings.
There have been numerous calls to media and politicians criticizing Brown’s wearing o’ the gray, which he steadfastly defends.
“It’s not about me, Marcus Brown, it’s about the Commissioner of the State Police, representing this agency every day, everywhere I go,” Brown said.
There are current and former troopers who are upset but won’t go public. The issue is likely to come up in Brown’s Senate confirmation hearings.
“It does raise red flags when the first priority of the commissioner is to get a patrol uniform,” said Representative Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery). “That’s a concern for me.”
Vereb went so far as to print a poster with Brown’s picture with a quote from his days at Maryland’s State Police. It reads, “the vast majority of civil disobedience in this country is sparked by law enforcement.” Vereb says it’s an anti-cop sentiment.
Brown doesn’t deny the quote, but says it was but one sentence during a four-hour seminar focusing on the recent unrest over inner-city policing.
“When you do that, you talk about what you’ve done well and where we’ve struggled,” Brown said. “That’s the context of where that was said.”
“The quote is a problem,” Vereb said. “We’re gonna have to see what he does moving forward. He addressed it with me, not that I accept his explanation, but we’ll see what happens.”
Critics are also scouring YouTube for old videos of Brown. They say he was a little too supportive of Maryland’s assault weapons ban and they’re looking for proof that he wants to restrict second amendment rights.
He said Thursday it’s not his job to make the law but to enforce it, whatever it is.
“I don’t see any legislation on the horizon in Pennsylvania to restrict any kind of gun ownership,” he said.
Is he OK with that?
“I’m fine,” he said.
It’s been a rocky start, but Brown has a message especially to those within his ranks upset he’s wearing their uniform.
“I want to let them all know that I’m gonna earn it every single day,” he said.
Brown says the uniform has already paid dividends. He said he recently backed up a trooper on a routine traffic stop off of I-81.
“The trooper came to me and he said,’Commissioner, I’ve never had somebody of your rank stop on the side of the road and back me up.’ He said, ‘ thank you.’ I couldn’t have done that if I wasn’t in uniform, if I wasn’t wearing a gun belt that day.”
Brown says the minute he was sworn-in by the governor he had arrest powers and said he passed the same certification to carry a state-issued weapon as other troopers.
No date has yet been set for his confirmation hearing and Brown said he doesn’t expect any problems. But if the buzz about his candidacy is any indication, his hearing will be must-see TV.