Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich’s goal of appointing Darryl McSwain as the next police chief might rest on a legal matter — whether the County Council will change a law related to a retirement compensation program.
Multiple sources have confirmed for Bethesda Beat that Elrich would nominate McSwain to be the next police chief, following the withdrawal of Tonya Chapman from consideration last month. Elrich has declined to publicly confirm that McSwain is his choice.
McSwain is enrolled in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) program, which allows county employees, including police officers and firefighters, to receive a pension that earns interest while simultaneously earning a paycheck for up to three years.
After the three-year mark, the employee must retire. When DROP employees retire, they receive their pension in a lump-sum payment.
Allowing McSwain to rejoin the police department would likely mean that the County Council needs to pass legislation allowing McSwain to exit the retirement program and rejoin the county workforce.
A similar situation occurred in 2015, when then-County Executive Ike Leggett nominated Steve Lohr to be fire chief.
Lohr, who participated in the DROP program, served as interim and permanent fire chief for two years, then retired on Dec. 31, 2014, due to the requirement that he must retire after working for three years.
Leggett tried to hire Lohr in January 2015, according to The Washington Post, but council members refused to consider the nomination, with Council member George Leventhal citing the DROP law.
“The law says three years and then you leave,” Leventhal told the Post at the time.
Leggett ultimately backed away from his plans to rehire Lohr, the Post reported, because doing so would have required “a broader public discussion.”
Council member Will Jawando wouldn’t comment specifically on McSwain’s involvement in DROP, but said that “if he were to be nominated, that’s something we’d have to look at.”
McSwain became the Maryland-National Capital Park Police chief in May 2018 after a 30-year career with the county police department. He served in several positions with the police department that included deputy commander posts in the Rockville and Silver Spring districts and assistant police chief, which he became in 2013. McSwain is also a member of several national police chiefs associations, according to a biography on the police department’s website.
McSwain has not responded to multiple phone calls and messages seeking comment since he became Elrich’s choice for police chief.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org