Hopeful and disappointed: 2 groups differ on nominee for Montgomery County police chief

The county executive’s proposal to give Montgomery County, Maryland’s acting police chief the top job officially is receiving mixed responses from two community groups.

The Silver Spring Justice Coalition is “very disappointed,” according to steering committee member Katie Stauss.

Citing Marcus Jones’ responses to recent incidents — such as officers using a racial slur and an incident that led to an officer’s indictment on assault charges — Stauss said Jones has refused to acknowledge that there is a systemic problem with how officers interact with minorities in the community.

“He always says, ‘Well, we can always do better,’ but that’s basically his cop out,” Stauss said. “We don’t feel like he can be in any way a transformative leader for the department. He’s just going to be more of the same, and we’ll just keep getting the status quo, which has been not good.”

Before being named acting chief in June, Jones was assistant chief of the Investigative Services Bureau. He also served as the commander of the 3rd District, drug enforcement commander, director of major crimes, and he created an award-winning diversity training program for the department.

CASA of Maryland, on the other hand, is ready to move forward and work with whomever is named permanent chief.

“We need stable, confirmed leadership to move forward, and we can’t do that with an interim chief,” said Julio Murillo, CASA of Maryland government and strategic relations specialist.

Murillo said that the group is hopeful. “Hopeful that now, if he does get confirmed as chief, that being in that position officially will open up the opportunity to work with community stakeholders like CASA to move forward toward that stronger community policing model,” Murillo said.

On the recent incidents of officers using racial slurs and the alleged assault, Murillo said the county deserves a community policing model that values diversity.

“We want to make sure that we can create a strong relationship not only with the immigrant community but with communities of color throughout Montgomery County,” he said.

Average citizens being more informed and involved could help strengthen the community policing effort, according to Stauss.

“A lot of white residents and privileged residents in the county have good interactions with police and believe that’s how police are with everyone — and that’s just absolutely false,” she said.

Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro intends to schedule an interview with Jones as soon as possible, once the council receives nomination paperwork from the county executive.

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