Maryland Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and the man he has chosen to lead the state police promised yesterday to return the agency to its crime-fighting roots, outlining a new era of cooperation aimed particularly at improving anti-terrorism efforts and putting more troopers on the streets in Baltimore.
As expected, Ehrlich (R) formally named Baltimore Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris to replace David B. Mitchell as superintendent of the nearly 1,600-officer Maryland State Police. Norris, Ehrlich's first cabinet-level appointment, must be confirmed by the state Senate.
At the announcement, Norris said he would bring to the state police the same management style he used in Baltimore, cutting programs that have little to do with law enforcement and freeing up deskbound troopers.
For too long, troopers have been "dying to do their jobs" in helping the state fight crime, he said. Baltimore particularly would benefit from state assistance in hunting down fugitives and stemming the narcotics trade, Norris said, and he plans to deploy troopers to patrol drug-infested neighborhoods such as the one where a family of seven was recently killed.
Norris said that "no drug dealer or terrorist" should think they are free to come and go in Maryland without fear of the law.
Although Baltimore experienced a dramatic drop in crime during the more than two years that Norris has been chief there, it remains the second most deadly of the 25 largest U.S. cities, according to new FBI statistics. Norris's offer to provide state assistance would need the approval of his yet-to-be-named successor.
In the past, some have fought the notion of increasing the state police presence in Baltimore, and black residents particularly have been wary. The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the Maryland State Police in the nation's longest-running racial profiling case.
But state Sen.-elect Lisa A. Gladden, an African American Democrat who represents the city and attended yesterday's news conference, said it doesn't take a recent spate of crimes to realize that the focus has to be on getting drugs off the street.
"This is a new day," she said.
Ehrlich made his announcement at the Pikesville headquarters of the State Troopers Association, which endorsed him in the primary.
He also named two other members of his law enforcement team.
Douglas DeLeaver, a longtime friend of the incoming governor, will take over as head of the Maryland Natural Resources Police, where he will command 290 officers whose mission is to patrol public lands and protect the state's bus and light-rail systems. DeLeaver is a 32-year state law enforcement veteran. His daughter works in Ehrlich's communications office.
Gary McLhinney will head the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, whose mission is to patrol Baltimore-Washington International Airport, the Port of Baltimore and the state's tunnels and bridges. McLhinney is president of the Baltimore local of the Fraternal Order of Police, which endorsed Ehrlich.
Ehrlich pledged that Norris would work closely with the two, as well as local and federal law enforcement agencies, to improve the state's terrorism prevention efforts.
It's unclear exactly how Ehrlich and Norris intend to implement their plan to beef up the state police presence in Baltimore. The incoming governor said it would not require new resources and, by focusing the state police on their core mission, would not hurt law enforcement efforts in other parts of the state, such as the Washington suburbs or rural areas in the south and west of the state.
"There will be more troopers everywhere," he said. "We're not diverting anything."
Outgoing Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) has offered troopers and other state employees a 2 percent wage increase, which Ehrlich has called unaffordable. Yesterday, Ehrlich said he has not heard a clamor from the rank and file for a raise.
Jim Wobbleton, president of the State Law Enforcement Officers Labor Alliance, disagreed. He said troopers are at least looking for annual step increases, based on years of service, to be reinstituted. State employees have not had a raise in two years, he said, adding, "I don't think anyone is blind to that."
Wobbleton said the union, which did not endorse Ehrlich, had very little input on Norris's selection but was happy that a selection had been made. "We just want to know who our boss is going to be," Wobbleton said.