ELDERSBURG — As 39 new troopers joined the Maryland State Police on Friday, they were reminded of the challenges facing law enforcement officers around the country.
The public is increasingly skeptical and distrustful of police, the new troopers were told, so it's important to treat people with respect and fairness to win that trust back.
"You are not being sent forth today to engage the enemy," Col. William M. Pallozzi, superintendent of the Maryland State Police, said during a graduation ceremony at Century High School in Sykesville. "You are being sent to engage the community."
The actions of law enforcement officers are being "highlighted, questioned and debated," Pallozzi said, and troopers need to rise to the occasion when dealing with the public.
"You should treat them the same way you want your family members to be treated. I expect you to provide selfless service — that means putting service to others above your needs, your priorities," he said.
Gov. Larry Hogan praised the state's troopers for their service to Marylanders, ranging from preventing a man from jumping from a bridge to his death to patrolling in Baltimore during "some of our darkest days" after rioting on the day of the funeral of Freddie Gray in April. Gray, 25, died after he was injured while in the custody of Baltimore police.
Hogan pledged he would provide the troopers with the "proper laws," top technology and full support to do their jobs. He plans to fund two more trooper academy classes and to re-open the Annapolis barrack.
Trooper Shawn Brown, president of the academy class, praised his classmates for choosing to serve even though "it is not a high point for law enforcement."
The 39 troopers spent more than six months in a training academy and will face eight more weeks of on-the-job field training. They will be sent to barracks across the state.