ROCKVILLE — Two locals began serving as acting chief and acting assistant chief in the county on March 31 while the county executive looks to appoint a new chief for Montgomery County Police (MCP).
Current assistant chief, chief of the Management Services Bureau, Russ Hamill, became the acting chief of police, and Sixth District Commander Dinesh Patil took over for Hamill as acting assistant chief in the Management Services Bureau.
“I’ve been asked to help transition to the new chief,” Hamill said.
The acting chief and acting assistant chief took up their new positions on the heels of the retirement of Chief J. Thomas Manger, who served a 15-year term in the county. Under his leadership, county crime decreased.
In 2011, then-County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett nominated Hamill for the rank of assistant chief, and the county council subsequently approved his nomination. From 2011 to October 2017 Hamill was assistant chief, chief of detectives and then he served as assistant chief and chief of the Management Services Bureau until becoming acting chief of MCP.
The acting chief and the acting assistant chief both said they are not involved in the search for the new chief.
Hamill said he is unsure when the county executive and county council will nominate and approve a police chief, and, therefore, how long he will serve as acting chief. For the time being, as acting chief, he said he does not want the department to “sit in place” as they wait for a department head.
“Part of this transition is that we not just maintain but even increase our efforts in what our duties and responsibilities are,” Hamill said. “And then, when the new chief gets here, we are still headed in the right direction, and so that’s what we’re going to do.”
Hamill said he wants the department to strengthen its relationship with the community.
Patil said that while the department can continue to improve on police-community relations, one of its strengths is that the department has a reputation and has been recognized for training its officers well, so they are prepared for the challenges they may face on the job.
County Executive Marc Elrich will select Manger’s successor, whom the County Council must approve before the person selected can begin working. Then, Hamill will return to his job as assistant police chief.
The county has four assistant chiefs. When the new chief takes over, Patil will once again serve as Sixth District commander. Now-retired Chief Manger selected the acting assistant chief, Hamill said.
Acting Assistant Police Chief Patil said he is “honored” and “humbled” to be selected for the acting position. Patil said his responsibility is to keep the department moving while it waits for a new police chief. The acting assistant chief position is a job with a wider scope of purview than Patil’s previous job. As commander of the county’s Sixth District, Patil said he “didn’t have to worry about more-global issues.”
Since beginning his term as acting assistant police chief, Patil said he has been “learning a lot.” He compared the magnitude of the information he was gathering as acting assistant chief to “trying to drink out of a water hose,” adding that his support staff are making the transition manageable.
Patil said he believes his local upbringing and extensive experience in the county’s department will be helpful for the job.
Patil has worked in various types of leadership positions in recent years, including Duty commander, director of the Personnel Division, director of the Special Investigations Division and, most recently, commander of the Sixth District. Prior to being promoted to captain, Patil served as a lieutenant in the Management Services Bureau.
Patil said MCP leadership tries to assign officers promoted to upper-level ranks such as lieutenants and above to varying types of divisions every few years. This allows for the development of “lateral-ability” in officers, which helps them to have a variety of types of leadership experience.
Hamill and Patil agreed that one aspect of police duties the department continues to work on is engaging with the community. “You can’t just send one email (to the community),” Patil said.
The acting chief said talking to area residents and hearing their concerns is a priority for him.
In addition to building trust on the part of the community, the acting chief and acting assistant chief are also responsible for targeting crime in the county.
As Manger was completing his final year on the job, crime in the county was on the decrease. In July 2018, county police reported overall crime numbers were down by approximately 48 percent from the previous year; no gang-related homicides were reported.
Hamill graduated from Our Lady of Good Counsel High School. Patil graduated from Paint Branch High School. Both are lifelong county residents and both graduated from the FBI National Academy.