SILVER SPRING – Although County Executive Marc Elrich said both he and the members of the Montgomery County Council know who he would like to name as the next police chief of the Montgomery County Police Department (MCP). However, he would wait for all background checks completed and questions answered before releasing the name publicly.
“We know who we want, and the council knows who we want,” Elrich said. “It’s been in the papers,”
Elrich referred to Darryl McSwain, the current chief of the Maryland-National Capital Park Police, Montgomery County Parks division. According to several local outlets, he is the next candidate under consideration for the role. In April 2018, McSwain retired from the county police department to become the county’s Chief of Maryland-National Capital Park Police.
According to county police, McSwain joined the police department in 1988 and completed 30 years of service. His last position was chief of the field services bureau, overseeing the Animal Services Division, the District Court Liaison, Public Information Office, Security Services Division, Special Operations Division, the Crisis Support and Response Division and the Traffic Division.
Elrich’s previous choice, Tonya Chapman, former police chief in Portsmouth Virginia, withdrew her name last month, saying she believed she “may not be a good fit.”
The Silver Spring Justice Coalition, which had backed Chapman’s candidacy, sent a letter to all members of the council, saying that coalition members were “deeply concerned about the integrity of the selection process for Montgomery County’s next chief of police.” The coalition is a grassroots community organization whose members include Christ Congregation Church Racial Justice Circle, Moms of Black Boys United for Social Change, Racial Justice Now, Standing Up for Racial Justice, Takoma Park Mobilization and Young People for Progress.
According to their letter, dated Sept. 5, coalition members believe that the amount of information that got out into the public about Chapman so early in the process, as well as the council’s list of 40 questions it submitted for her to answer, all added up to an unfair and racially motivated, process.
A large number of questions “is an onerous requirement that seems likely to have been designed to discourage the first Black female presumed nominee for police chief in the county from pursuing the job,” Silver Spring Justice Coalition members wrote.
They blamed “political maneuvering,” which they said overruled the normal process that would have given Chapman “a fair hearing.”
Elrich, too, questioned the number of questions submitted.
“I have my own opinions about those questions. They’ve asked these questions already,” Elrich said of council members.
Elrich said he saw the coalition’s letter but would not comment on it. He said he hoped to announce his choice for police chief in “the next couple of weeks,” but added, “We are not going to say until we do our due diligence.”
Former Chief Tom Manger retired in April of this year. The top job for the 1,300-member police force has been held by Acting Chief Marcus Jones, but Elrich has said he has no plans to nominate Jones him for the permanent position. It took about seven months for Manger’s selection as chief.
Councilman Sidney Katz, who chairs the council’s public safety committee, said he had no problems with either how long it is taking to replace Manger or the number of questions councilmembers provide. The process allows each councilmember to submit questions to ask the top candidate.
“You are dealing with nine people, so a couple of questions each. I don’t know I would call that onerous,” he said.
No new name has been submitted to the council. However, Katz said, Chapman’s name was never formally submitted either.
Elrich “informally” told council members, many of whom met with Chapman individually, he said. Those talks led to more questions, he explained.
Like the coalition, Katz expressed disappointment that Chapman’s name had become public so early in the process.
In the coalition’s letter, they noted that participants who met with both Chapman and candidate Takoma Park Police Chief Antonio DeVaul signed a non-disclosure agreement “to protect the identity of both candidates and the details of the proceedings.”
DeVaul also withdrew his name from consideration.
Katz explained that keeping a candidate’s name secret is important until late in the process “as a courtesy” to the candidates, who may not have informed their current employer that they were seeking a new job.
Katz said he is unaware how the names of the candidates became public.
“I don’t know how that happened. I don’t know where it came from. I know it didn’t come from me,” he said. “(At least) 20 some people applied.”
As for the length of time MCP has been without a permanent chief, Katz said, “Like everything, it takes longer” than expected.
The job must be advertised with interviews held, he said.
He also attributed the delay to the fact that the council was on recess throughout August, noting that while no council meetings were held, members did work.