The man nominated to become Montgomery County's police chief outlined a broad framework yesterday for restoring the department's trust among minority residents, vowing to make the force more diverse and to send more officers to classrooms and community forums.
In his first appearance before the County Council, Charles A. Moose said gaining the confidence of the 1,000 sworn officers, political leaders and the community would be his most important task. County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) nominated him to take over a department that is the target of a federal civil rights review of its treatment of minority residents.
"If you don't have trust, no one is talking to you, no one is helping you, and you are not going to reduce crime," Moose said. "The community has to trust me."
Moose, who has run the Portland, Ore., police department for six years, is a national leader in trying to stop the use of racial profiling by police; he will be a panelist at a conference on law enforcement ethics over the next two days at the invitation of Attorney General Janet Reno.
His appearance -- before about a dozen community members, television cameras and his wife, Sandy -- drew a warm reception from council members. Several council members predicted he would face no problems when a vote is taken Tuesday on his confirmation.
During the hour-long interview, the prospective chief was by turns self-deprecating, polished and homespun. He appeared as adept at fielding questions about the role of technology in reducing crime as he was at responding to concerns about his own reputation for having a short fuse. The latter topic even provided some levity when council member Michael L. Subin (D-At Large), never known for equanimity, asked what was wrong with a bad temper.
Moose, 45, told council members that his reputed bad temper was a "myth" that grew out of two incidents he considered to be results of racial discrimination. In one, he lashed out after an internal affairs investigation was launched into why he showed his identification during a confrontation with a store clerk, who he felt was ignoring him. The other display of anger followed a comment by a colleague who said he looked like a gang member when he stopped by the office in jeans one day.
Moose said he eventually was ordered to see a police psychologist to help manage his anger.
Moose said he would be "a leader," "a listener" and "a cheerleader" in the $125,000-a-year job, and he promised to seek opinions from front-line officers. He said he would recruit more Spanish-speaking officers to better serve a growing Latino population. And he suggested that Montgomery public schools teach domestic violence classes to keep children of troubled households from repeating their parents' mistakes.
"Maybe we don't need as much help anymore in terms of `you need to drink eight glasses of water' and `these are the major vegetable groups,' " said Moose, sitting at the head of a crowded conference table. "Maybe we need to start talking about relationships."
Council President Isiah Leggett (D-At Large) praised Moose as the ideal candidate to take over an agency having trouble keeping pace with an increasingly diverse population.
"He just hit a home run up there," Leggett said. "I anticipate that there will be no problem whatsoever confirming him."
Moose wrote his doctoral thesis on community policing in one Portland neighborhood, and he indicated several times that the most effective department involves public schools, churches and neighborhood watch groups.
He said that technology can help officers reduce crime but that computers are no substitute for "standing in someone's living room listening to their concerns." And he said the best crime-reduction policy would be to require every Montgomery home to have a front porch -- and to force residents to sit on it each day to meet their neighbors.
But he also said he understands the demands of a diverse county, saying he would probably not be qualified to be a police officer 25 years from now because he is not bilingual. "I struggle with the King's English," he told council members. He wondered aloud why a Spanish-speaking officer is not on duty at the county's 911 dispatch center at all times.
Asked how he would react to a politically motivated request from Duncan that could harm the department, Moose said simply: "We would have our first spat."
His performance received high marks from several community leaders in the audience, including members of an NAACP branch that has been highly critical of Duncan's management of the police department.
"I don't think he in any way attempted to diminish the fact that a lot needs to be done in improving communications with the department," said Ruby Rubens, the NAACP's director of training.
Roscoe Nix, the former NAACP president, said Moose "will be judged by the same standards as any chief."
"I'm not going to give him a free ride," Nix said. "We will judge him by his performance."
CAPTION: Charles A. Moose is expected to be confirmed as police chief next week.
CAPTION: Charles A. Moose, left, testifies before the County Council, which votes Tuesday on his nomination as police chief.