“It’s a beautiful neighborhood,” gushes Lee Stine of her development in Hampden Township, Cumberland County. “We’ve lived here for 46 years.”
But that beautiful neighborhood is on edge after a racially tinged letter was apparently left in the mailbox of Marcus Brown, the acting state police commissioner and longtime resident.
A community-wide email has been circulating, warning residents to be on alert for suspicious activity. The author, a local mom, is clearly skittish. “These actions are frightening, my children are concerned about their safety and I, too, am concerned,” the email read.
The sleepy development has been awakened in recent weeks with the continuing bizarre saga of Marcus Brown. There were signs critical of Brown planted in the neighborhood and videotape of the commissioner removing those signs. Brown apologized for that, but his neighbors feel harassed by the forces actively trying to derail his nomination as the state’s top cop.
That community email continued, “This group appears to stop at nothing to terrorize the neighborhood.”
“It’s just a shame,” Stine said. “I feel that it’s kind of a railroading.”
Stine is Brown’s neighbor and says she’s known him more than 20 years. She doesn’t like the intrusion of his detractors.
“It’s very concerning, particularly because of Marcus. We think a lot of Marcus and we think a lot of the family,” she said.
After weeks of blogs and posts and letters critical of Brown, those who know him best are speaking out. He grew up in Hampden Township and graduated from Cumberland Valley High School. Four Chapman’s been friends with him since the sixth grade.
“The Marcus Brown that I’ve known since the mid-70’s, and still know today, I’m proud to call him my friend,” Chapman said.
Chapman thinks there’s way too much uproar over Brown’s insistence on wearing the gray of the PSP, which has angered several former and current troopers.
“I think he’s being unjustly criticized,” Chapman said. “Whether he should wear the uniform, or shouldn’t, is a decision he made. For things like signs being put in the neighborhood, and to go to that level, I just think is wrong.”
But wrong, say Brown’s critics, was his removal of those signs and his decision to wear a uniform he didn’t earn.
The State Troopers Association and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) have called for his Brown’s nomination to be withdrawn because they say they lack confidence in his ability to lead.
“I think in a sense it’s been a rush to judgement,” said Senator Pat Vance (R-Cumberland).
Vance thinks fellow Republicans have climbed aboard the anti-Brown bandwagon before they’ve even met him. Brown lives in her district and she’s worried her colleagues will simply follow the leader, Corman, and vote no on his confirmation.
“I don’t pretend to tell other senators what to do,” Vance said with a smile but a clear poke at leadership, “but I would say at least meet the man, talk to him, and then make a judgement.”
But after a bizarre few weeks in Brown’s neighborhood, residents have made judgements of their own.
“Just because one state trooper or two state troopers think he shouldn’t wear the uniform, they’ve all piled on,” Stine said. “That’s the way it’s looking to me.”
As for the racially charged letter that Brown says appeared in his mailbox, it was turned over to Hampden Township police and then given to Cumberland County District Attorney Dave Freed who is investigating the entire matter. Freed did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.
There is deep animosity, however. So deep, that many of Brown’s critics are questioning the authenticity of that letter and suggesting it may have been planted to earn him public sympathy.
Stay tuned. This story seems to have a new twist everyday and it isn’t over yet.
ABC27 obtained an op-ed Brown wrote. You can read it here.