Tippett announces resignation as state police superintendent

March 24, 1992|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,Staff Writer

Maryland State Police Superintendent Elmer H. Tippett, buffeted by criticism within his department and by the Schaefer administration's growing discontent with his performance, announced yesterday that he will resign effective June 1.

Colonel Tippett, 49, told Gov. William Donald Schaefer in Annapolis late yesterday afternoon that he was resigning from ,, the $77,336-a-year job, according to an administration source.

"He did it in the best interest of the state police," the source said. "The resignation was offered and accepted."

Colonel Tippett, appointed by Governor Schaefer in November 1987, could not be reached for comment.

But in a prepared statement, he expressed appreciation for the opportunity to serve both the state and the men and women on the police force.

Mr. Schaefer refused comment "at this time," said Frank Traynor, the governor's press secretary.

Before yesterday's verbal resignation, it was clear the superintendent's hold on his post was slipping.

Last week, the governor voiced his clear displeasure with the direction of the state police under Colonel Tippett's command.

"The governor simply said that he had a lot of problems with the agency," said the source. "He sees those troubles at the feet of the superintendent."

Also, Bishop L. Robinson, secretary of public safety and correctional services, recently was displeased with a confidential report to him from Colonel Tippett concerning the state police mishandling of the Dontay Carter case, according to a source in Mr. Robinson's agency.

Carter, an 18-year-old parolee from East Baltimore, is charged with abduction, armed robbery and the murder of Vitalis Pilius, 37, of Catonsville on Feb. 11.

Carter allegedly abducted and robbed two other victims on Feb. and Feb. 14, when he was captured by the city police.

Carter, using a driver's license obtained from the state Motor Vehicle Administration with his picture and Mr. Pilius' identification, twiceslipped through the hands of the state police.

On Feb. 11, at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, two state troopers released Carter after he allegedly used the phony MVA license to back up a credit card stolen from Mr. Pilius.

Two days later, Carter was stopped by a trooper on Reisterstown Road for speeding but drove off after the trooper gave him a warning ticket.

Again, Carter used the MVA license -- with his picture and the victim's identification -- to fool authorities and escape.

Colonel Tippett's report has yet to reach Mr. Schaefer's desk, according to Mr. Traynor, although a report highly critical of MVA security was submitted to the governor March 10 by Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer.

While the Dontay Carter case didn't help Colonel Tippett's diminishing stock with the governor and key members of the General Assembly, there were other problems that loomed larger, less visible to the public eye and more difficult to solve, according to sources.

"There were the proposed budget cuts protested last October by hundreds of state troopers in Annapolis," said another source close to the governor.

"Colonel Tippett seemed just to lay in the grass on this one. Here the governor was expecting him to support his position and the troopers were expecting him to support theirs. Sure, he was a man in the middle but he should have done something.

"And he certainly didn't make any new friends in the legislature when the troopers sat up in the galleries with their weapons in their holsters," the source said.

"That flat out should not have happened. . . . The colonel should have exercised more control over the entire situation."

Colonel Tippett was appointed to fill the superintendent's job after Mr. Robinson's firing in April 1987 of George B. Brosan, a former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration official who was popular among his troopers but not politically astute.

He came to the state police from the Prince George's County Police Department, where he was chief of the Bureau of Operations.

In November, the five-year anniversary of his appointment, Colonel Tippett would have been vested in the state retirement system for gubernatorial appointees. He already receives an annual pension from his county job that ranges between $41,713 and $55,864, a Prince George's County personnel officer told The Sun in 1987.

In the past, Colonel Tippett has refrained from revealing his county pension.

Meanwhile, several sources in the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and in Annapolis say that at least four persons have emerged as strong contenders for the superintendent's position.

They are Capt. Larry W. Tolliver, commander of the executive protection unit in the governor's office; Richard A. Lanham Sr., commissioner of correction; Lt. Col. Thomas H. Carr, head of the state police Bureau of Drug Enforcement, and Joseph P. Newman, who will soon retire as a colonel with the Baltimore Police Department and become a deputy secretary with the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services.

Sgt. Pat Drum, president of the 2,053-member Maryland Troopers Association, said yesterday: "Morale is rather low. People are flooding me with telephone calls about all the rumors. And we're getting mixed signals from all over the place on where we are going, what our mission as an agency is."

He said most rank-and-file members are concerned over the proposed elimination of positions.

"We understand how rough the economy is but there's talk about making us car pool instead of each trooper taking their car home," Sergeant Drum said. "That would destroy the very

concept of the state police -- to be highly mobile."

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