A survey of Prince George's County Council members yesterday indicated that nominee John E. McHale Jr. has enough council support to be confirmed as the new chief of police in the suburban county.
The political leaders, who have been bickering over the selection of a new police chief for several months, offered one overriding reason why McHale will get the job.
"It's the fatigue factor," said one council member. "We want the whole damn thing behind us."
McHale, 54, needs the support of only four of the 11 council members to become the new police chief. Yesterday's survey indicated that at least five members -- possibly more -- are currently inclined to support him.
The 840-man county police department has been without a permanent chief since John W. Rhoads retired last June. Last month the council rejected James R. Taylor, the Petersburg, Va., chief who was the choice of Prince George's County Executive Lawrence Hogan for the job.
All this has worked to McHale's advantage.
Council members David Hartlove and Frank Casula, who supported Hogan's previous choice, said they also would support McHale.
Council member Sue V. Mills, who voted against Taylor, said she was leaning toward supporting McHale.
Council members Deborah Marshall and Floyd Wilson -- the council's two black members, indicated that unless some new negative information was dredged up about McHale, they probably would support him too.
"The only thing that would change my vote would be something really derogatory coming out of his record," Wilson said.
"There hasn't been one negative call on him yet," said Marshall, who was instrumental in defeating the controversial Taylor nomination.
But sources said yesterday that McHale's biggest opposition may not come from the council, but from the county police department itself.
Relatively quiet a year ago, the department is now rife with personality conflicts and dissension. Even McHale, Hogan's former police adviser and press aide, is not immune to that conflict.
Already, sources said yesterday, some dissatisfied officers are trying to undermine McHale's position as chief and refer to him as "the roach," a derisive reference to the former FBI official's short stature.
"Anyone who goes in there," said one council member, "is going to have hell to pay."
Political leaders also said yesterday that the success or failure of McHale's confirmation depends on whether the various special interest groups that mobilized against Taylor will do so against McHale.
"I would not be surprised if the blacks were not too happy with an ex-FBI man," said one council member who is leaning against supporting McHale. "And the police union is probably saying, 'If we went through all that trouble to say no to Taylor, why say yes to McHale?'"
Some council members said, however, that they expected a certain amount of grousing with any new chief from outside the department and were confident that, given time, McHale might be an effective leader.
But the ultimate test of whether McHale will win confirmation by the council probably lies in the fact that he lives in Prince George's County. He fits Hogan's definition of an "outsider" from the police department, and still is an insider in the minds of council members who want someone from the country in the police chief's job.
"McHale is a constituent," said one council member, "and you don't go around voting against people who vote for you unless you've got good reason. McHale has friends, his friends have friends, they go to church and meet their friends, and they all vote."
Council member Hartlove declared: "Larry Hogan's got a majority of the council over a barrel. He gave them just what they asked for, and McHale should breeze right through."