The phones have been ringing persistently in Montgomery County police headquarters the past three days with callers inquiring about the future of Chief Robert J. di Grazia - will he stay or will he gob.
There is no difinite answer. There are many rumors, but few facts to go on.
Many of diGrazia's critics are acting as though the chief already is out. In fact, newly elected County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist says he "certainly" hasn't decided yet whether to keep diGrazia and thinks that a "disproportionate" amount of attention has been placed on the question of diGrazia's future in the county.
DiGrazia has experienced strained relations with his officers since he came to Montgomery two years ago from Boston, where he was the police commissioner. He riled his officers again last week when he made public statements critical of police as seeing "the community as the ecemy" and needing more human relations training. That drew a rebuke from the department's 300-member chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP).
There have been some bright signs fo diGarzia's future.
A Circuit Cout grand jury, extended by a special order last September to investigate allegations by a police officer's wife that diGrazia mismanaged his department, has been dormant for over a month, according to both the court clerk and a spokesman for the Maryland special prosecutor who was overseeing the grand jury investigation.
The grand jury has yet to subpoena any person of documents relating to the police department case, said Howard Smith, clerk of the court. The grand jury tentatively is scheduled to meet again in January, according to Neal Janey, an assistant special prosecutor. But is is not known whether this will be its last meeting, Janey said.
DiGrazia voluntarily has provided the grand jury with numerous documents related to the allegations against him.
In addition, the County Council announced Nov. 17 that it was ending its examination of the allegation about the police department after a council staff member determined that the police had adequately answered the charges made by an organization called Code 3.
Still, an atmosphere of suspense and tension reigns at police headquarters as rumors enter the vacuum of unanswered questions about the chief's future.
The rumors began to snowball Monday when diGrazia met with Gilchrist for a briefing on what he has accomplished as director of police during the past years. Gilchrist is having similar briefings with all department heads before deciding which ones to keep on in his new administration.
The rumors then was that diGrazia was told he should have to leave. Both Gilchrist and a spokesman for the chief have denied that. Then, Tuesday night, an anonymous caller telephoned a local television station to "report" that diGrazia had decided to resign. The station determined that the report was false and didn't broadcast it, but yesterday the police department received "at least 20" inquiries - mostly from police officers - about the same rumor, according to police media spokesman Cpl. Philip B. Caswell.
One of diGrazia's sides described the atmosphere at police headquarters as being polarized between those who support diGrazia and are "panic stricken" at the thought that he might be leaving and those who are "walking on air" because of that possibility.
One officer, who characterized himself as a diGrazia supporter, said "If I had to guess, I would say that about 15 percent of the officers are anti-deGrazia, another 10 percent are pro-diGrazia and about 75 percent are undecided.
Meanwhile, diGrazia, who characteristically welcomes press inquiries and promptly returns press calls, is now taking calls only through his media spokesmen.
Yesterday, in response to a series of questions relayed to him, diGrazia said: "I am not concerned about the rumors. I could spend a lifetime responding to rumors. I have a responsibility to carry out as director of police of Montgomery County, and that is my primary concern."