SOME OFFICERS and family members at the graduation ceremony for new officers of the Montgomery County Police Department apparently are bent out of shape over comments made by Chief Charles Moose during a graduation speech. County Executive Douglas Duncan, who was there, thought the chief's speech -- which touched on the presence of dishonesty and prejudice on the force -- contained "a message that needed to be said." On the basis of reports on the chief's remarks, we agree.
The chief, who joined the force Aug. 2, used an occasion that brought together police brass and the newest officers to talk about standards of behavior and his expectations for the future. He made clear what he believes is unacceptable conduct, citing the eight sworn county officers who were found to have lied on the job yet were allowed to remain on the force. Any officer found to be untruthful should be fired, the chief said. How can police officers disagree with that -- or take issue with a chief who says a department that permits an officer to be untruthful and still stay on the job has a code of honor unworthy of respect. "There are people in the department who are untruthful. And I'm not comfortable with that," the chief said. No other officer, public official or county resident should be.
Evidently some in attendance, and others, were upset that he also raised the issue of police racial insensitivity. But is it out of line for a chief in a county where minorities express less confidence in their police -- where for three years the U.S. Justice Department has been investigating charges of police harassment and abuse of minorities -- to use a graduation ceremony to talk openly about racial attitudes in his department? If not there and then, where and when?
The speech did not contain the kind of rhapsodizing about police that some wanted. But it was timely and important. "Do you follow a model . . . where we continue to have people that are liars carry badges and work the street, where we have people who talk about discriminating against blacks and still carry their badges?" the chief asked. "It is your decision. It is your choice, and I pray that you make the right decision."
Who can quarrel with that?