ROCKVILLE — The field of candidates vying to become Montgomery County’s next chief of police shrunk by one when Takoma Park Police Chief Antonio DeVaul withdrew his name on July 17.
DeVaul’s withdrawal from consideration comes as County Executive Marc Elrich finalizes his list of qualified candidates. The Takoma Park police chief addressed his withdrawal in a post on the city’s Facebook page.
“Over the weekend, the flood of calls and emails I received from residents distraught about me leaving Takoma Park really hit home for me,” he wrote.
DeVaul was sworn into his post back in January. Before coming to Takoma Park, he was police chief for the Maryland-National Capital Park Police.
Over the past few months, Montgomery County Police (MCP) has been operating under interim Chief Marcus Jones. He stepped into the role after longtime Chief of Police J. Thomas Manger retired back in April and then-acting chief Russell Hamill III left in June to take over in the same role for the City of Laurel.
Public Information Officer Barry Hudson and Caroline Sturgis, who serves as an assistant chief administrative officer, confirmed that Elrich determined that Jones did not meet the criteria to move to the final steps of the process after going through the interview process.
“He was interviewed, but based on what the county executive was looking for. he felt that the two other candidates were better equipped and more qualified to lead the department in the direction that he would like to see the department go,” said Sturgis.
The county began looking for Manger’s replacement even before he officially stepped down. According to the county, officials began a nationwide recruitment campaign in February, which included the job announcement, on four major job boards dedicated to the police. Some of the boards included the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers and Major Cities Chiefs (MCC), to name a few.
In April and May, the Montgomery County Office of Human Resources organized interview panels with community members, legislative branch executives and members of the executive branch. According to the timeline, officials also began planning for the Community Policing Forum so that members of the community could voice their concerns and priorities.
Hudson confirmed that the process had begun with 23 candidates vying for the position.
Following the withdrawal of DeVaul, on July 18 Council President Nancy Navarro sent a memo to County Executive Elrich, urging him to name his finalist for the position.
“This is a very crucial appointment, and councilmembers have shared with me their desire to be methodical and thorough in the discharge of their duty and responsibility in the appointment process,” she wrote. “In order to provide them the time they need to vet this candidate and given their feedback and our shared interests…I will be scheduling the interview immediately upon our return from recess this September.”
The council has a month-long recess in August.
In her memo, Navarro noted that Elrich’s comments to the press have identified a prospective candidate without actually mentioning their name. She said that although the candidate’s name is already out, she will wait until there is formal confirmation from Elrich’s office.
In the meantime, she wrote, county council members will conduct their own research on the prospective candidate and prepare their questions and concerns by August 15.
Currently, Tonya Chapman is the last remaining finalist for the position, Hudson confirmed. Chapman served as the police chief in Portsmouth, Virginia, from early 2016 to March 2019.
According to local news media in Portsmouth, Chapman’s resignation came after she alleged racism within the department. However, city officials noted a concern with the leadership of the police department as a reason for Chapman’s resignation.
In the past, Chapman has also served as the deputy chief of police in the Richmond Police Department and the Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Chapman did not respond to requests for an interview.
If Chapman is confirmed to be Elrich’s nominee, she will go through a series of interviews with the county council as well as a public interview in September, Sturgis said. During the public interview, Chapman will be allowed to have counsel, according to Sturgis.
“We are optimistic that the council will vote in favor or confirm the county executive’s appointee,” Sturgis said.
The county council must vote to approve Chapman before she is officially hired. If the council decides to vote against Elrich’s nominee, Sturgis explained, then she is unfamiliar with the legal implications of what the next steps would be.