ROCKVILLE – Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger announced he will be retiring in April.
The county officer made it official on Jan. 30, completing a plan he had since former County Executive Ike Leggett had finished his second term in office. Manger has agreed to help new County Executive Marc Elrich with finding or initiating the search for a new police chief. He worked as chief of a county police department in Virginia and will retire after working as a police officer for 42 years (15 years in Montgomery County).
“My plans are to stay engaged with my community and my profession,” Manger said. “As the Major Cities Chiefs Association is expanding its legislative agenda in our nation’s capital, I have been asked to lead that team.”
Manger and Elrich, who have known each other for several years when Elrich was a county council member, have discussed the retirement a few times prior to his announcement.
“This is a bittersweet day for Montgomery County,” Elrich said. “Chief Manger has set the bar high for police leadership, outstanding service both locally and nationally, and leaves the department and county better and safer than when he arrived.”
Last July, county police reported overall crime numbers was down by about 48 percent from 2017 and there were no gang-related homicides to report.
“While no police department is perfect – there’s always challenges that you have – day-in and day-out we’ve been able to reduce crime over the years,” said Manger. “We’ve been able to solve some cold cases. I think back to the Lyon sisters case.”
In 2017, Lloyd Lee Welch pleaded guilty in Bedford County Circuit Court to the first-degree murders of sisters Sheila Mary Lyon, 12, and Katherine Mary Lyon, 10, on March 25, 1975. According to Patrol Officer Rose Borisow, the girls went missing when she was about 10 years old. After the girls vanished, Borisow recalled not being allowed to go outside alone as a child due to the incident.
Being able to give closure on the Lyon case, Manger said, “That, I felt like that was a really good thing.”
“That case really hit home for me, big time… For decades we didn’t know what happened to them,” said Borisow, 53, said. “It’s huge to have that finally solved.”
The response to the retirement announcement varied. Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro said Manger “exemplified what it means to be a public servant in our county” and thanked him for his years of service. For Borisow, she will be sad to see Manger leave the department.
“I’ve never felt more supported by a police chief before than I have with him,” said Borisow, a Silver Spring native who has served in the department for 31 years. “When I heard he was retiring I was genuinely upset about that.”
Meanwhile, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35, a police union in the county, published a written statement, offering a mixed review on Manger’s tenure.
The union pointed out several of his accomplishments. One key incident included was working with Richard Leotta to advocate in Annapolis for a bill that would require the installation of ignition interlock in the cars of people convicted of certain drunk driving-related charges after his son, Officer Noah Leotta, was killed by a drunk driver who drove his vehicle into him during a traffic stop in 2015. The Maryland General Assembly passed the bill, known as Noah’s Law, and now, the user must blow into the interlock device to start their car.
The statement also acknowledged his work in the new construction of a police headquarters, training academy and the 2nd and 3rd district police stations. Lastly, Manger and the union were able to “successfully negotiated” the use of body cameras on police officers, one of the first programs in the country.
However, the union said it was not sorry to see Manger go, despite noting his accomplishments. The FOP Lodge 35 claimed that under his leadership, members of the department didn’t accomplish as much as they could have.
The union, representing more than 1,200 Montgomery County police officers, said that its members were happy about the idea of having a new chief.
“Unfortunately, while serving as the Director of the Police Department, Tom Manger was often unwilling to cooperatively work with FOP Lodge 35 to accomplish more,” FOP Lodge 35 wrote. “We wish Tom Manger luck in his future endeavors and look forward to a new Director of the Police Department that is willing to work collaboratively with FOP 35 to protect our communities and our police officers.”
Although the county police department has made progress on both reducing opioid-related deaths and investigating and charging gang-related crimes, the next police chief will have plenty more work to do on both issues, Manger said. Some of the work has already started as a few years ago, some county officers were trained to use Narcan to revive people who had suffered an overdose.
The transition from being a police chief to the civilian position is going to be dramatic change in lifestyle, Manger said. “For the first time in 42 years, I would be a civilian,” Manger said, noting that he is looking forward to having a 9-to-5 job in place of his 24/7 job and to not getting phone calls at 3 o’clock in the morning.
Manger said he hopes that he has the chance to say farewell to his friends on the force.
“There will be a ceremony – a swearing-in ceremony – for the new chief,” Manger said. “I could attend that – just, you know, see the new person take over… (Otherwise,) I wish them all the success in the world.