(iStock)

Nancy Navarro, a Democrat, is president of the Montgomery County Council

This fall, the Montgomery County Council will be faced with approving the appointment of the next chief of police for Montgomery County. Whoever gets appointed will be filling big shoes. Retired police chief J. Thomas Manger left an indelible and transformative imprint on the force over his 15 years, and he left Montgomery County a better place than when he met it.

Members of the Montgomery County Council look forward to continuing and improving on his efforts by working with our county executive to hire a transformational leader who embodies the values of our diverse community and is committed to adopting and implementing priorities articulated by our residents throughout the community input phase of the search for a new police chief.

This search is happening at a crucial time in our county, when our residents and leaders are demanding increased accountability and oversight of the Montgomery County Police Department. There have been widely publicized instances of police brutality, prejudice and disrespect that do not and should not define our police force. Even as we express our justified communal outrage and call for increased and effective scrutiny of the actions of the men and women of the police force, it is important to reiterate that we have a quality police force. Whoever will be leading it will be taking over a treasured resource that can only get better in assuring that every space in our county is safe, warm and welcoming.

As leaders, we pledge to support the incoming chief and our community leaders in making reality our residents’ mandate for a safe Montgomery County where every police officer treats all residents with respect and care regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and class. We can do this.

In April 2018, the County Council set forth a vision for racial equity in our county and approved a commitment to developing a Racial Equity and Social Justice Policy for the county by this fall. This has been an exciting and worthwhile initiative, as the enthusiastic involvement of community members in the conversations has shown.

In May, our council unanimously adopted the Law Enforcement Trust and Transparency Act. The measure requires independent investigations after officer-involved deaths.

The council also is set to review and take action on a bill establishing a policing advisory commission that would ensure effective community involvement in the development of police policy and enhance mutual trust between the police and our residents. Acting police chief Marcus Jones will meet with the council on July 23 about the strategies the police department is using to promote positive community-police relations and to discuss de-escalation strategies and other police training that is essential to making our county a safe place for all of our residents.

All these new structures and processes are aligned with the broad, comprehensive and strategic vision of ensuring racial equity and social justice in every part of our county. The next police chief will work with us to support a highly respected police team to be more culturally proficient and to carry out its duties and responsibilities to our community with respect, compassion and a deep sensitivity to its sacred obligation to protect every resident of our great county.

The members of the County Council will do everything in our power to ensure that the police force has all that it needs to do its job effectively, given the mandate from our residents.

We are listening. And we are going to do something about what we have heard.