ROCKVILLE—On Sept. 23, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich announced that he will nominate Acting Police Chief Marcus Jones to serve as the county’s new police chief.
Jones has been serving in the acting position since Chief J. Thomas Manger stepped down last spring. He has also served as the director of Major Crimes, commander of Drug Enforcement and commander of the 3rd District.
In recent months, other candidates for the police chief position have withdrawn their names from consideration, such as Takoma Park Police Chief Antonio DeVaul and former Portsmouth, Virginia Police Chief Tonya Chapman.
“For the last five months, we have conducted the most-open and inclusive police chief search in the county’s history. I have heard from residents, community-based organizations, labor leaders, religious leaders and county council members, who have clearly stated what they want to see in their police chief,” Elrich said in a statement.
“They don’t want the status quo. They want to see changes that will make a good department even better and rebuild trust that has been shaken by some recent interactions between officers and members of the public. I felt that it was important to look outside the department for new leadership. However, Marcus and I have discussed my expectations, and I am confident that he shares my vision and will carry out the changes I want to see.”
Initially, Elrich interviewed Jones for the position and determined that he did not meet the criteria to move on to the final steps of the candidacy process, according to Montgomery County Public Information Officer Barry Hudson and Caroline Sturgis, who serves as an assistant chief administrative officer.
“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.
However, Acting Chief Jones said that he is ready to address the challenges Montgomery County faces.
“I am deeply appreciative of County Executive Elrich asking me to serve as the chief of police for Montgomery County,” Jones said. “It is an honor. Throughout this process, the County Executive has made it very clear that he wants to see a change in the culture of this department. I am committed to fulfilling his vision and will work diligently to strengthen the relationship between the Montgomery County Police Department and all the communities we serve and protect.”
Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro said that she is pleased to see Jones nominated.
“I’m very pleased,” she said, “(Jones) has a proven track record and he knows this community very well, and he’s really well respected.”
Navarro also noted that rather than feeling surprised, she is focused on what is best for the county.
“At this point, I am moving forward,” she said.
Katie Strauss is a member of The Silver Spring Justice Coalition’s Steering Committee, a coalition that had been involved with interviewing previous candidates for the police chief position did not support Elrich’s decision. The group has been critical of the police since Robert White was shot and killed by police in Silver Spring.
“We were definitely not enthusiastic about his potential candidacy and not enthusiastic now,” she said. “(Jones) generally has made excuses for the abuse (by police officers on the force.) He doesn’t represent change and transformation; he’s been there for years. You can’t really bring change if you are part of the status quo.”
Councilmember Will Jawando has worked extensively in recent months on legislative policies related to the police, such the Law Enforcement Trust and Transparency (LETT) Act, which was unanimously approved by the full council back in May.
Jawando has held forums for community members to clarify what they would like to see in a new police chief.
“Look, we need a chief. We’ve been in flux for a while, and we’ve had Marcus Jones in the acting role. He’s got a ton of experience: he’s been here for 30 years, knows and has the trust of the rank and file. I’ve said during the process that I would support him if he was the county executive’s pick, and I stick to that,” he said.
Jawando explained that he is looking forward to working with Jones to change the culture of the police in Montgomery County and address the issues the area faces.
“I’m looking forward to working with him and rebuilding that trust that has sort of eroded in recent years. Jawando also went on to comment on the process of filling the police chief position.
“I think the process was not smooth, but the county executive has the right to appoint, and our job is to evaluate the credentials and confirm or not confirm the candidate, and I think Chief Jones is definitely qualified for the role,” he said.
According to the councilmembers, the county is still on track to have a new police chief officially confirmed in the position by mid-fall. They said they expect to see Jones appear before the council for a vote in the coming weeks.
Suzanne Pollak contributed to this story.