ROCKVILLE – One of the county executive’s endorsed candidates for the county police chief position is no longer being considered for the job.
Tonya Chapman, who served as police chief in Portsmouth, Virginia, from early-2016 to March 2019, withdrew her name, County Executive Marc Elrich said.
“I have received a letter from Tonya Chapman stating that she has withdrawn her name from consideration to be Montgomery County’s next chief of police,” Elrich said Aug. 27. “She brought a wealth of experience and knowledge that would have been good for the county. I wish her the best in her future endeavors.”
In Montgomery County, the county executive appoints their pick for chief, and then the county council must vote to approve the appointee before the person can start acting as chief.
Caroline Sturgis, who serves as an assistant chief administrative officer for the county, said last month that, pending a vote by the council, Chapman was slated to go through a series of interviews with council members and the public in September once the council returned from recess.
Given that Chapman is no longer an option, Elrich must find another person to appoint.
“Public safety remains a top priority for me and my administration, and I will move expeditiously, and carefully, to identify a new candidate for police chief for our county,” said Elrich on Aug. 27.
According to local news reports in Portsmouth, Chapman resigned from the position after she claimed the department had a problem with racism. In addition, though, city officials indicated that concern with police department leadership was a factor in Chapman’s resignation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began investigating the issue of racism in the department following her allegations.
When news media in Montgomery County asked Elrich about the FBI investigation and leadership problems late in Chapman’s Portsmouth chief tenure on Aug. 8, the county executive said he was aware of the investigation and that it did not change his mind.
“If they’re investigating, they’re investigating; if they find something, they find something,” Elrich said.
Elrich said he could not comment on possible issues in the Portsmouth police department because “I was not there.” He said he believed Chapman was the best candidate for the county post because of the way she has shown her capacity for leadership during her career.
In July, Takoma Park City Police Chief Antonio DeVaul and Acting County Chief Marcus Jones were finalists along with Chapman. However, DeVaul withdrew his name July 17 because he received a negative reaction from residents of the City of Takoma Park to his seeking the position.
“Over the weekend, the flood of calls and emails I received from residents distraught about me leaving Takoma Park really hit home for me,” DeVaul wrote in a post on the city’s Facebook page.
DeVaul began his position in the city in January.
A month ago, Elrich concluded that in narrowing down the list of candidates and going through the interview process, Jones did not make the cut, a fact that Sturgis confirmed.
“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.
After a town hall about qualities the public wants in a new chief, Elrich said that he hoped to appoint a candidate that council could put to a vote by the end of August. Meanwhile, Councilmember Will Jawando (D) said after the town hall that he believed finding an appointee between August and September would be a more-realistic goal.