The process leading to Jones’s nomination has been unusually long and plagued by leaks, withdrawals and controversies. Several County Council members who support Jones criticized Elrich (D) on Monday for what they say was poor handling of the process.
As recently as Aug. 27, Elrich, who took office in December, said he would not consider Jones for the role of permanent chief in the majority-minorty jurisdiction of 1 million. His announcement to the contrary on Monday came after three top contenders dropped out of the running over the past two months.
“This is a critical nomination that I take very seriously,” Elrich said in a statement. “For the last five months, we have conducted the most open and inclusive police chief search in the County’s history.”
Elrich acknowledged that Jones was not his first choice for the role, which became vacant when Police Chief J. Thomas Manger retired after 15 years. Takoma Park Police Chief Antonio DeVaul, who emerged as one of two finalists in July, dropped out a week later, saying he wanted to stay at the helm of the much smaller Takoma Park department. The other semifinalist, former Portsmouth, Va., police chief Tonya Chapman, pulled her name from consideration in August.
Elrich’s next choice was Darryl McSwain, a retired Montgomery County police official who is chief of the Maryland-National Capital Park Police, Montgomery County division. McSwain withdrew his name Monday, praising Jones and writing in a news release that taking the job would have meant giving up some of the retirement benefits he was getting from his earlier time working for the county.
“I felt that it was important to look outside the department for new leadership,” Elrich said in his statement. “However, Marcus and I have discussed my expectations, and I am confident that he shares my vision and will carry out the changes I want to see.”
Jones, who has been with the Montgomery County police for 34 years, has served as the acting police chief since June. He was the early choice of the department’s rank-and-file and has experience in the Silver Spring police district, the narcotics bureau and the major-crimes bureau.
If confirmed by the County Council, he would be the first insider appointed to the top job since 1995.
“He rose through the ranks here,” homicide detective Dimitry Ruvin said in July, when The Washington Post reported that Jones had not made an initial list of finalists for the job. “He knows this police department. He would have been amazing.”
County Council member Hans Riemer (D-At Large) said Monday that Jones should have been nominated from the beginning. The nomination process “dragged out,” Riemer said, because Elrich “didn’t get it right.”
“Guy’s done a great job. What more could he have done to prove his capability? Why wouldn’t you have gone with him?” Riemer said. “Could have saved a lot of time and a lot of grief.”
In July, a Montgomery officer was charged with assault and misconduct after using his shin to force a man’s head into the ground during an arrest. The incident, which was caught on camera, sparked an outcry among activists and prompted lawmakers to introduce legislation for a Policing Advisory Commission that would examine police behavior.
In May, an officer was caught on video using a racial slur after approaching a group of African American men who were accused of loitering.
Last year, prosecutors ruled that the fatal shooting of an unarmed man in a chaotic parking lot encounter in Silver Spring was justified.
Council members Will Jawando (D-At Large) and Tom Hucker (D-District 5), who have been outspoken about the need for police to interact better with the community, said Monday that they support Jones’s nomination.
“It hasn’t been the best process, I’ll admit that,” Jawando said. “A lot of ups and downs, and twists and turns, for a critical position.”
“Without question, everyone agrees it could have gone much more smoothly,” Hucker said.
Council President Nancy Navarro (D-District 4) said she appreciates that Jones “knows Montgomery County inside and out,” adding, “In my opinion, Jones has always been a strong contender for this post.”