Social Justice Groups Back Montgomery County Police Chief Nomination

Social Justice Groups Back Montgomery County Police Chief Nomination

CASA, NAACP were part of panel that interviewed Tonya Chapman

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Tonya Chapman

Tonya Chapman

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Three advocacy groups have given their stamp of approval to Tonya Chapman’s appointment to be Montgomery County’s next police chief. All of the groups were present for an interview Chapman did with community members.

The immigrant advocacy organization CASA, the NAACP and Jews United for Justice (JUFJ) all released statements of support for Chapman this week, citing her career with multiple law enforcement agencies in Virginia.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich announced in mid-July that Chapman was his nominee and said her nomination would be sent to the County Council for its review.

Chapman is meeting informally with council members before the council does a public interview in September, when it returns from a monthlong break. The council will then vote on her nomination. At least five votes are required for the council’s confirmation.

Linda Plummer, the president of Montgomery County’s NAACP chapter, said Wednesday that she was one of seven panelists who interviewed 16 candidates for police chief this summer. The other panelists were:

– Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA

– Representatives from the offices of County Council members Nancy Navarro and Will Jawando

– Two members of the county executive’s staff

– A member of the county sheriff’s office

Plummer said the panel narrowed the field from 16 to four. She didn’t remember many details from the interview, but said all of the candidates had “stellar resumes.”

Chapman became Elrich’s nominee for police chief after Antonio DeVaul, the police chief of Takoma Park, withdrew his name from consideration on July 17.

Acting Police Chief Marcus Jones, one of the final four candidates, was interested in staying in the position permanently, but was not one of Elrich’s finalists..

Chapman’s past work has come under scrutiny, in part due to the terms of her departure from the Portsmouth Police Department in Virginia in March after three years as chief.

Both Chapman and the Portsmouth chapter of the NAACP alleged that the chief was forced out due to “systemic racism,” while the city manager said her departure was an employment issue “based solely on concerns with leadership of the department,” as reported by a Portsmouth television station.

Plummer said that during the interview, the panelists discussed Chapman’s exit from Portsmouth. The Montgomery NAACP leader said she agreed with Chapman’s account and thinks the chief was “harassed” by being forced out.

Plummer said Chapman is well qualified for the Montgomery job.

“Her credentials speak for themselves,” she said.

Torres said Tuesday that he doesn’t have any concerns about Chapman’s past performance and that based on the interview, he thinks she did a good job in Portsmouth.

“She really loved to engage the team on the process, but at the end, she made the decisions,” he said.

Torres said he was also impressed with Chapman because of her commitment to community policing during her years in law enforcement, which also included 22 years in Arlington County’s police department and three years as the deputy police chief in Richmond.

Torres said he thinks Chapman is a “people person” who analyzes issues carefully. He said he was most impressed during the interview with her commitment to uphold Elrich’s recent executive order that affirms the county’s pledge not to assist federal immigration officials.

“She was very clear that she is going to implement the new executive order from the county executive,” he said.

JUFJ, a social justice group with Washington and Baltimore chapters, also had a representative on a separate community panel that interviewed Chapman, said Laura Wallace, the organization’s Montgomery organizer. Wallace said her organization spoke with others in Virginia that have worked with Chapman and were complimentary of her.

She said JUFJ is impressed with Chapman’s pledge to implement more community policing and transparency within the department. She said they are pleased Elrich used an extensive interview process that included input from the community, in addition to public officials.

“With what we saw firsthand in her interview and the vision that she lays out for the county, we have confidence she’s the right choice for the county,” she said.

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

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