Wolf taps retired state police major to be commissioner

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, speaks to members of the media at the state Capitol in Harrisburg Pa. Tuesday, June 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Chris Knight)

Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday nominated a retired state police major to lead the agency two months after the Senate scuttled his first choice for the commissioner's job.

Tyree C. Blocker, who retired in 2005 after working his way up through the ranks of the state police for 30 years, would bring a wealth of knowledge about patrols and criminal investigation, including extensive experience in drug law enforcement, staff services and administration, the Democratic governor said.

"Major Blocker will build on the strong foundation of the traditions and culture of the Pennsylvania State Police while also looking for opportunities to ensure that the force reflects the diversity of Pennsylvania," Wolf said.

Blocker, 62, currently owns a fitness company. He's the second nominee Wolf has proposed as commissioner.

In June, the Republican-controlled Senate rejected Wolf's nomination of Marcus Brown along nearly straight party lines. Critics cited concerns that included Brown's decision to wear the police uniform even though he had not gone through the Police Academy and his liberal views on law enforcement. The troopers' union opposed his nomination, raising doubts among some senators about his effectiveness as a leader.

Brown, a former Maryland state police superintendent and a one-time No. 2 officer in the Baltimore Police Department, continues to serve as acting commissioner and plans to stay on during the transition to a new commissioner, Wolf spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan said.

Shortly after Wolf's office announced the latest nomination, the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association issued a brief statement congratulating Blocker, who the governor's office said was unavailable for telephone interviews Monday.

"We look forward to working with Major Blocker on the critical issues facing our department and the 12 million citizens we serve," the statement said.

Senate Republicans, who learned about Blocker's nomination only hours before it was announced, were taking a wait-and-see approach, a spokeswoman said.

"We're looking forward to getting to know him," spokeswoman Jenn Kocher said, adding a confirmation hearing before the Law and Justice Committee was unlikely before fall.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa said Blocker's career roots in the Pennsylvania State Police should bolster his confirmation prospects. He said Blocker likely would push for more diversity in the overwhelmingly white department.

"Regardless of who's in that position, I think that is going to be a priority," the Allegheny County Democrat said. "I expect confirmation quickly."

Blocker, who is black and lives in Chester County with his wife, has had a varied career since he left the state police.

He worked at George Mason University as a technical adviser to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service for a year and then served as an adviser to the minister of national security for the Trinidad and Tobago government for about a year, the governor's office said.

Blocker also has headed a consulting company and currently owns the Future Gem Fitness Corp., it said.

The Pennsylvania State Police, the first uniformed agency of its kind in the nation, has a $1 billion annual budget. It has about 4,700 sworn employees and about 1,800 civilian workers.

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This story has been corrected to show Blocker was an adviser to the Trinidad and Tobago government's minister of national security; he was not the minister.
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