2021 | Government

County police union says elected officials’ ‘anti-police narrative’ has fed assaults on officers

Criticism of law enforcement has led to worsening officer morale, it says

Montgomery County’s police union says it is worried about officers being put at risk amid anti-police sentiment and declining morale within the department following two attacks against officers on Monday night.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 wrote in a statement on Tuesday that during one incident, an officer stopped to help a male walking in the middle of the road. The male then ran up to the officer’s SUV and leaped on the hood, the union wrote.

When the officer tried to de-escalate the situation, the male threw a cellphone at him and hit him in the face with a closed fist. The officer later pepper-sprayed the attacker and deployed his police dog when the male went inside the police vehicle.

The attacker was eventually detained and taken to a hospital for a mental evaluation, the union wrote.

The other incident happened during a dispute between families, the union wrote. A female was trying to break a window of an occupied vehicle when an officer intervened. The female started assaulting the officer, who tried to protect himself. Family members then surrounded the officer.

The union wrote that 25 officers were needed to control the situation.

“These actions are deplorable and take a toll on officer morale,” the FOP wrote. “The anti-police narrative being [pushed] by elected officials in our national, state and local governments is perpetuating this disrespectful behavior and hateful sentiment toward law enforcement officers.”

The union did not mention specific elected officials or specific acts or statements it considered to be against the police. State and county lawmakers have worked in recent months on legislation to address what they say are a need for improvements in police policy and actions.

The county’s police department has been under scrutiny several times in recent years due to controversies, most recently because of a video of two officers who handcuffed, screamed at and accosted a 5-year-old boy in Silver Spring in January 2020.

Police Chief Marcus Jones told the County Council’s Public Safety Committee hearing last month that he continues to worry about officers retiring or resigning from the department due to the criticism. In some cases, they want to join other departments that are “more accepting” of law enforcement officers, he said at the time.

“They’re not leaving to go to a police department generally here in the Washington metropolitan area. They’re actually leaving to go to other places in other parts of the United States, or in Maryland,” Jones said in the hearing.

In its statement on Tuesday, the police union wrote that there are 14 entry-level police candidates in training at the academy, and it expects 75 officers to leave the department by the end of the year.

The union added that another factor working against recruitment is the fact that Montgomery County is one of the lowest-paid police departments in the D.C. region.

“The assaults on officers, the daily defund and anti-police rhetoric, poor pay and anti-due process sentiment, will cause even more officers to leave the law enforcement profession,” the union wrote.

A representative from the union could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com