Council Members Say Police Chief Candidate Deserves Fair Hearing
They hope to meet privately with Tonya Chapman before formal interview process
Montgomery County Council members aren’t saying much publicly about Tonya Chapman, reserving judgment as they consider whether to approve her as the county’s next police chief.
County Executive Marc Elrich said last week that Chapman, formerly the chief of Portsmouth, Virginia’s police department, would be sent to the council for its consideration. The council would likely interview her and vote on her confirmation in September, when it returns from a monthlong recess. A majority vote of the nine council members is required for approval.
Chapman became the lone candidate last week to replace former chief J. Thomas Manger, who retired in April after 15 years on the job. A second finalist, Takoma Park Police Chief Antonio DeVaul, withdrew from consideration last week.
Chapman’s record in Portsmouth includes some controversies, including her awarding of a medal to an officer who shot a fleeing burglary suspect in the back. The officer will go on trial later this year on malicious wounding and firearms charges.
Additionally, Chapman said she was forced to resign in March due to “systemic racism.” But the city manager said her departure was due to “concerns with leadership of the department.”
Many council members have expressed a desire to meet privately with Chapman prior to her formal interview in front of council members.
Council member Tom Hucker said Friday he is still gathering information about Chapman and wants to discuss her experience and approach to community policing.
Council member Evan Glass echoed those sentiments, saying he wants to get to know Chapman first.
“I look forward to meeting with her and discussing her professional experiences and background,” he said.
Glass said he was aware of the concerns surrounding Chapman’s background and hopes to discuss them with her “before making any judgment.”
Asked whether he was surprised Acting Police Chief Marcus Jones was not among the two finalists selected, Glass said the county executive should be allowed to select his leadership team.
“I do believe he [Jones] would have been a fine selection for the next police chief. But that decision was ultimately the county executive’s to make,” he said.
Council Vice President Sidney Katz said he, too, hopes to meet with Chapman to learn more about her before deciding how he will vote.
“I’ll be looking at her resume and information that has been sent to us and will be sent to us, and I’ll ask for additional information once I know what I have received,” he said.
Council member Hans Riemer, often a critic of Elrich, said he wished Elrich had more thoroughly vetted Chapman, but the council will “do its due diligence” in looking into her background. He added that there were several good candidates who applied for the job, including Jones.
“I’m also interested to know who wasn’t in the final tier,” he said.
Council member Will Jawando, who has taken the lead on several police reform issues, could not be reached for comment but told Montgomery Community Media last week that Chapman would get a fair hearing from the council.
“She’s highly qualified from what I’ve been able to see,” he said.
Council member Gabe Albornoz could not be reached for comment.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org