Elrich Montgomery County Police Choice Faces Growing Doubts
Eyebrows have been raised by Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich’s choice for Montgomery County Police Chief, Tonya Chapman. Among others, Council Members are questioning Elrich’s decision to pass over acting police Chief Marcus Jones in order to nominate Chapman.
Chapman, who is black, has complained that her removal was caused by those in the department who “quite frankly did not like taking direction from an African American female” and that “I have never witnessed the degree of bias and acts of systemic racism, discriminatory practices” as she had experienced in Portsmouth. And yet, the city manager who fired her, as well as her successor, are also both black women.[iii]
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Chapman faced other controversies in Portsmouth, including the awarding of a medal of valor to an officer who shot a fleeing burglary suspect in the back. One year later, the officer was indicted on aggravated malicious wounding and firearms charges. The officer goes on trial in November.
Curiously, Elrich claimed to Bethesda Beat that he was unaware of the shooting and medal of valor incident. Elrich’s further defense of Chapman left many scratching their heads even more. He said that her firing ought not be a matter of controversy because it was based solely on concerns about the leadership of the department.[iv]
County Council members are already raising questions about the Chapman hire. They expressed strong reservations about the County Executive’s failure to select interim police Chief Marcus Jones on a permanent basis.[v] Jones, a 34-year veteran of the force, is widely respected in the county, as well as also being an African-American: [vi]
- Craig Rice: “We have a candidate, an internal candidate who knows Montgomery County, who knows the issues affecting our residents, who knows some of the challenges our system faces and knows how we can be better, It’s hard for me to imagine an external candidate with the same kind of understanding.”
- Gabe Albornoz said he was measuring candidates’ qualifications against those of Chief Jones, whom he called a “very strong internal candidate. “I am going to look for somebody who is more qualified or in a better position than he might be — and that is going to be a tough bar to cross.”
- Sidney Katz said he would have been pleased to vote for interim Chief Jones for the permanent position, also said he was processing information and preparing questions for Ms. Chapman before determining how he will vote on her nomination.”[vii]
The Chapman hire comes at the same time as a related law enforcement action. Elrich issued an executive order preventing county agencies from cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE.) Elrich’s order prevents cooperation between the Montgomery County Police Department and ICE’s National Gang Unit. The unit identifies and develops intelligence on gang membership, associations, activities and international movements. It also deters, disrupts gang operations by tracing and seizing cash, weapons and other assets derived from illicit activities.
Last year ICE gang investigations led to the seizure of more than 820 firearms and more than 5,500 pounds of illicit narcotics, including heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamine. ICE officers removed 5,872 known or suspected gang members, an increase over the year earlier. [viii]
County Republican Party Chairman Alexander Bush told the Washington Post: “Elrich’s political stunt is all about opposing a President he hates, even at the risk of the safety of Montgomery County residents.”[ix]