Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich will officially name Tonya Chapman as his nominee to be the next police chief. Chapman’s nomination will go to the Montgomery County Council for a possible confirmation in September.
Elrich told Bethesda Beat Thursday night that Chapman, formerly the chief of the Portsmouth, Virginia, police department, is his lone remaining candidate and that the nomination would be sent to the council for approval. A majority vote on the nine-member council is required for confirmation.
“We’re going to have discussions and she’s going to be meeting council members,” he said.
Chapman has worked in law enforcement for more than 30 years, serving with the Arlington and Richmond, Virginia, police departments. She was Portsmouth’s police chief from February 2016 until March 2019, when she was forced to resign.
Chapman was involved in a number of controversies during her three years, which included the awarding of a medal of valor to an officer who shot a fleeing burglary suspect in the back in 2017. One year later, the officer was indicted by a grand jury on charges of aggravated malicious wounding and a firearms charge. He is scheduled to go on trial in November, according to a Portsmouth CBS affiliate.
The circumstances of Chapman’s departure from Portsmouth’s police force remain in dispute. Chapman, who is black, said at the time in Portsmouth media coverage that some in the department “quite frankly did not like taking direction from an African American female,” although the city manager said her departure was only related to “concerns with leadership of the department.”
Elrich said Thursday that he wasn’t aware of the shooting incident and the medal of valor. But he said he has no reason to think that her departure in Portsmouth was part of any controversy.
“They [The Portsmouth Police Department] said they separated from her because of leadership issues, not because of the job she does,” he said.
Elrich said he was impressed during Chapman’s interview with her experience working in three police departments and that in Richmond she was interim director of the Richmond Department of Social Services.
“You have to have a lot of confidence. And she did,” he said.
Chapman became the lone nominee earlier this week when Takoma Park Police Chief Antonio DeVaul withdrew his name from consideration. DeVaul and Chapman were the two finalists.
Elrich began with a list of more than 20 candidates for the successor to former Chief J. Thomas Manger, who retired in April after 15 years on the job. Elrich said Acting Police Chief Marcus Jones was among the final four candidates, but did not make the last cut.
Elrich said he preferred that the next police chief be someone from outside Montgomery County. He noted that the council is working on implementing a civilian police advisory commission to guide the department on best practices, which he said speaks to a lack of confidence in the department.
“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 whose got a decent background and experience,” he said.
Elrich was referring to the council considering legislation to oversee the police department, which it announced 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 McDonalds. The police department came under more scrutiny this month 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 had been a finalist to be the next chief of the Annapolis Police Department. But City of Annapolis Public Information Officer Mitchelle Stephenson said in an interview Thursday that Chapman was no longer under consideration.
The Montgomery County Council is scheduled to interview Chapman in September when it returns from its month-long August recess. Following the interview, the council would vote on Chapman’s confirmation.
Council Vice President Sidney Katz said in an interview Friday morning that he hasn’t discussed Chapman’s nomination, but he hopes to meet with her. He said he wants to know more information first 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.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org