Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich announced Monday that he will nominate acting Police Chief Marcus Jones to serve as the police chief for Montgomery County. Elrich chose Jones after his two previous picks for chief withdrew from the process.
Jones has served as the acting chief since June and has been with the Montgomery County Police Department for 34 years.
“This is a critical nomination that I take very seriously,” Elrich said in a press release. “For the last five months, we have conducted the most open and inclusive police chief search in the County’s history. … 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.”
Jones previously served as the assistant chief of the Investigative Services Bureau.
Jones is Elrich’s third candidate for police chief. His first choice, Tonya Chapman — a former Portsmouth, Va., police chief — withdrew after concerns emerged over her tenure at the department.
Elrich then picked Darryl McSwain, who became chief of the Maryland-National Capital Park Police, Montgomery County Division in 2018. He retired from the Montgomery County Police Department after a 30-year career.
In a statement on Monday, McSwain announced that he withdrew from the nomination process in the best interest of his family. While employed with the Montgomery County Police Department, McSwain participated in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) program, which allows county employees to earn both a salary and a pension that collects interest for up to three years before retiring.
After three years, the employees are required to retire, and collect their pension in a lump-sum payment.
McSwain’s participation in DROP meant that Elrich would most likely need to introduce legislation that would allow the chief to rejoin the county workforce despite retiring through the program.
Elrich did not respond to two messages for comment on Monday, and it was unclear how he planned to facilitate McSwain’s re-introduction to the police force.
“Due to my retirement status … the Administration was limited in the financial options it could provide that would allow me to maintain my family obligations,” McSwain wrote in a press release.
He currently collects a pension from the Montgomery County Police Department and a salary from the Park Police. Rejoining the county as chief of police would likely mean forgoing his pension, meaning a substantial cut in income.
“Between what I receive in my pension and my salary, I likely would not have [received] that if I came back,” McSwain said in a phone interview on Monday afternoon. Those financial concerns, and his commitment to his family, made it more difficult to accept the nomination.
The chief position opened in April when Tom Manger retired after 15 years on the job.
This summer, Elrich had more than 20 candidates for a replacement. The interview process included several rounds of interviews with the County Council staff, executive staff and other community members.
When the pool was down to four finalists, Jones was one of them. However, Elrich said at the time that he decided against Jones because he wanted a chief from outside Montgomery County.
The pool then narrowed to two finalists — Chapman and Takoma Park Police Chief Antonio DeVaul. However, in July, DeVaul withdrew his name, leaving Chapman as Elrich’s nominee.
When he confirmed that Chapman was his nominee, Elrich explained his reasoning for not picking Jones:
“I think Marcus [Jones] is a good guy, but for the kind of change you expect, you want someone from the outside. If the council’s gonna pass a resolution that says the County Council should oversee the police department, and make recommendations … that’s not a resounding, ‘We’re totally confident in how the police department is run.’ So if you’re not confident, then maybe you should look for somebody on the outside who’s got a decent background and experience,” he said.
Elrich was referring to the council considering creating a civilian police review commission. The council announced the proposed legislation in May shortly after a police officer used a racial slur toward four black men while they were detained for trespassing at a White Oak McDonald’s.
The police department came under more scrutiny in July when Officer Kevin Moris was seen on video kneeing a restrained suspect in the back of the head during an arrest in Aspen Hill. The state’s attorney’s office has charged Moris with second-degree assault.
Chapman also faced scrutiny over her three years as police chief in Portsmouth, including a dispute that led to her leaving the department. The circumstances of her departure remain in dispute, according to past reporting by Bethesda Beat. In 2017, she awarded a medal of valor to an officer who shot a fleeing burglary suspect in the back.
In August, the Montgomery County Council sent Elrich a list of more than 40 questions about Chapman’s experience and background.
Chapman then withdrew from consideration. Elrich confirmed her withdrawal in a press release on Aug. 27.
Bethesda Beat learned around the same time that Elrich was picking McSwain as his nominee instead.
County Council members have criticized a lack of communication from Elrich over nominees. The council was unaware on Monday that Elrich planned to nominate Jones until the county issued a press release.
“Like every other aspect of this process, I learned about this from a press report or press release,” said Council Member Andrew Friedson.
Council President Nancy Navarro released a statement in support of Jones, and added, “I look forward to County Executive Elrich sending over his nomination for the next police chief.”
The confirmation of a new police chief requires a majority vote by the County Council.
Friedson said he hopes the nomination marks the end of the search for a new police chief.
“I think it’s clear that this has been an unfortunate process, but I’m glad it’s finally over and we can move forward with permanent leadership of a police department that is responsible for the public safety and quality of life of our 1.1 million residents,” he said in a phone interview on Monday afternoon.
In an email statement, spokesman Barry Hudson described Jones as the county executive’s first official nominee.
“So, there actually has never been a person officially submitted as a nominee for the position to the council,” Hudson wrote. “All have been potential candidates for the job. When we send over Marcus he [will] actually be the first official nominee.”
Elrich reached out to Jones late last week to discuss the nomination, Jones said in a phone interview on Monday evening. Their conversations continued into the weekend and included potential changes within the Montgomery County Police Department to address concerns from the county executive and council members.
Jones said he plans to expand de-escalation training within the department and encourage more officers to carry Tasers as a less lethal choice of weapon.
“I want to get to the point where every patrol officer is required to carry one,” Jones said. “It’s just another tool for them to utilize.”
He also plans to implement new policies to prevent racial profiling during routine traffic stops.
You can reach Kate Masters at firstname.lastname@example.org