HARRISBURG - Of all the new Wolf administration nominees awaiting confirmation, few face a challenge quite like acting State Police Commissioner Marcus Brown.
The veteran officer, who until recently headed the Maryland State Police, is not facing scrutiny just from legislators. He's also fielding it from within his own ranks.
A Facebook page has been created where retired troopers and others have excoriated Brown over his decision to don the gray uniform troopers wear - even though, despite a long career in policing, he did not attend the State Police Academy. They are mobilizing supporters to contact senators who could vote on his confirmation next month.
In their mind, Brown, 50, is an outsider, not steeped in the culture and traditions of the agency, and therefore unable to understand its needs. They also assert that controversies in Brown's past will give legislators pause.
Senate leaders haven't publicly expressed opinions about the nominee, but they have said more than one of Wolf's picks will have to field tough questions.
Brown believes those are obstacles he can overcome. On a purely administrative level, he says he has experience in running large and diverse law enforcement agencies, each with its own set of challenges and quirks.
Beyond that, he said, he shares the same goals as all members of the state police.
"I expect every trooper in this organization to care about this organization," he said. "And every single day, I'm going to care about this organization."
In choosing Brown, Wolf cited his lengthy resumé, which includes assignments from beat cop to top cop. Wolf also noted Brown's commitment to diversity: as head of the state police in Maryland, he recruited in areas with high minority populations and at historically black colleges.
The Democratic governor is hardly the first to pluck someone from outside the agency, a decision that rankles those who have gone through the academy and risen through the ranks.
Wolf's Republican predecessor, Gov. Tom Corbett, tapped Frank Noonan, a career investigator with the FBI and the state Attorney General's Office, to head the state police.
But Noonan chose not to wear a state police uniform, a gesture troopers took as a token of respect.
"That said a lot," Joseph Kovel, head of the troopers' union, told The Inquirer in 2013. This time around, the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association has remained silent on Brown since releasing an initial statement welcoming him.
Thomas Stuckey, a retired state police corporal from Harrisburg, said the union should speak up.
As one of the administrators of the Facebook page called "He didn't earn it, he shouldn't wear it," Stuckey says he has heard from dozens of people upset about Brown's selection.
Active troopers, he said, can't talk: "We are a paramilitary organization. You obey orders from above, and you aren't allowed to take a political stance."
But Stuckey said troopers worry that Brown doesn't care about how passionately they feel about the traditions of their organization. "If I tell you that wearing the uniform is not honoring me, shouldn't you take that off?" Stuckey asked.
Brown countered that he wears the uniform as a way to respect the agency. He said the uniform is what represents the organization, and when he speaks with elected officials, or is out in the community, "it's important that the commissioner represents the agency."
Brown grew up outside Harrisburg and landed in San Jose, Calif., after graduating from Pennsylvania State University with a degree in marketing. He spent the next three years there as a beat cop, and moved back east to be closer to his family.
Brown spent nearly 15 years with the Baltimore Police Department, climbing the ranks to become a commander and later deputy commissioner.
Along the way, he got to know Martin O'Malley, Baltimore's onetime mayor. When O'Malley became Maryland governor in 2007, he asked Brown to head the Maryland Transportation Police.
At the time, a furor erupted over his police pension. According to news reports, Brown took advantage of a provision in the Baltimore city code that permitted an employee to receive pension benefits if he or she had served between 15 and 20 years and was "removed . . . without fault upon his part."
In Brown's case, he had worked for the Baltimore police just of shy of 15 years, and had received credit for his work in San Jose. He left the Baltimore police voluntarily to join the O'Malley administration, but the city police commissioner at the time wrote Brown a letter saying he had notified the retirement board of Brown's "layoff."
Despite the uproar, a Police Department lawyer later determined that Brown, a former deputy police commissioner, had qualified for the pension.
Brown defends the pension, noting that he got paid for only 18 years of service and that similar credit had been given to other employees. "This wasn't done for Marcus Brown," he said.
He will likely have to answer questions about that and other matters during confirmation hearings. A date has not yet been scheduled, but Republicans, who control the Senate, anticipate they will be held next month.
State Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R., Bucks), who chairs the Senate Law and Justice Committee, which would hold the hearings, could not be reached for comment. Other legislators privately said they had received calls from state police supporters and intended to carefully vet Brown.
Jennifer Kocher, a spokeswoman for Senate Republicans, said only that the caucus was "committed to reviewing the experience and credentials for all of the nominees, including Col. Brown's."
Brown appears ready for the challenge. He said he intended to outline his goals for the agency, which includes beefing up its trooper complement and improving diversity. If there are detractors, he hopes to win them over.
"Give me an opportunity to prove my dedication to this organization," he said.