Wanted: New State Police Chief

April 27, 1992

There's a job vacancy you might want to apply for in Pikesville. It pays $77,000 a year, with lots of government perks. You get to wear a uniform and carry a gun, too. And take all the free target practice you desire.

The position: superintendent of the Maryland State Police. It became available after Elmer H. Tippett Jr. announced on March that he was resigning, after four-and-a-half years, effective June 1. Mr. Tippett had done a pretty good job, but just wasn't the strong, commanding figure Gov. William Donald Schaefer wanted.

What tipped the governor against Mr. Tippett was the October march on the State House by hundreds of armed and uniformed state troopers protesting the governor's proposed budget cuts that would have trimmed their ranks and closed two barracks. That these officers surged into the Senate and House galleries, glowering down at the legislators, with guns in their holsters, was an intimidating factor that persuaded lawmakers it would be unwise to chop the State Police budget this way. Mr. Tippett's failure to stop this march, or to serve as a more effective conduit for the troopers' complaints to the governor, marked the beginning of the end for the superintendent.

The botched Dontay Carter case, in which an alleged murderer twice eluded State Police arrest, further angered the governor. Mr. Tippett saw the handwriting on the wall and resigned rather than be forced from office.

Now comes the task of finding a new superintendent who can reorganize the State Police, re-orient the agency more toward a crime-fighting role and handle delicate political dealings. It won't be easy. An insider may know his way around, but could find it impossible to demote or by-pass old friends and cronies. An outsider might encounter intense resistance from within the ranks.

The governor's choice should have a free hand to overhaul the State Police and turn the agency into more of a leading force in crime prevention statewide. Gone are the days when the agency was relegated to patrolling interstate highways and acting as rural police officers. Maryland needs a dynamic State Police force capable of helping local law-enforcement agencies get a handle on vexing crime problems.

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