The last thing the Maryland State Police needed was a blatantly political superintendent. Yet that is exactly what this key law-enforcement agency got last week with the selection of Gov. William Donald Schaefer's chief bodyguard, Capt. Larry W. Tolliver, to the top police post. The decision was made on the basis of Captain Tolliver's personal connections, not his limited professional resume.
What an insult to the hard-working men and women of the State Police. Captain Tolliver has meager command experience, except in guarding the governor and catering to the whims and needs of the governor's longtime associate, Hilda Mae Snoops. His political ties extend into the top ranks of the General Assembly and to former Gov. Marvin Mandel, who pressed Mr. Schaefer to give Mr. Tolliver the superintendency.
It has paid off. Back in 1987, then-Superintendent George Brosan refused to promote then-Sergeant Tolliver from the bottom of a promotional list. That led to Mr. Brosan's firing, and Mr. Tolliver was then pushed up the ladder. He also became captain from the bottom of the promotional list. Now he's got the top job through politics, too.
Mr. Tolliver admittedly handles his tasks well. He's been chauffeur, coat-carrier, door-opener and errand-boy for Governor Mandel during his trials and tribulations and for Governor Schaefer. He's also run the Executive Protection Division with the kind of alacrity Mr. Schaefer likes: arranging to have demonstrators outside the governor's mansion photographed and arranging for an Annapolis city ambulance to take Mrs. Snoops to Baltimore in violation of fire department policy.
Are these the credentials for a State Police superintendent? Of course not. Yet Mr. Schaefer has named the 46-year-old Mr. Tolliver "interim" chief with such a glowing endorsement there's virtually no chance someone else will replace him.
What a charade! While public safety secretary Bishop Robinson promises a nationwide search for a permanent superintendent, the governor tells reporters the only way Mr. Tolliver can lose the job "is not to play ball."
Clearly, playing ball is the key to success in the Schaeferized State Police. After a decade of trying to weed out cronyism and favoritism from this police agency, Mr. Schaefer has reversed course. You can't professionalize and upgrade the quality of law-enforcement work when promotions are based on political ties and favors done for influential people. Nor can the State Police ever turn itself into a modern, effective crime-fighting agency when the superintendent knows he must "play ball" whenever the governor, his minions, friends or allies call.
We hope Captain Tolliver proves us wrong. The State Police is too important an agency to be turned into a gubernatorial toy.