Montgomery Co. police chief says officers need to be guardians, not warriors

During a virtual town hall meeting Thursday night, police leaders from across Montgomery County vowed to connect with their community and train officers so they can better understand the people they serve in Maryland’s most populated and diverse county.

Six police officials spoke out and answered questions, including Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones, who is African American.

“We’re not looking to put Band-Aids on problems in our communities. We’re looking to solve them,” Jones said.

“We do it in a way of a guardian-type of mentality, not a warrior-type of mentality.”

The police leaders spoke at a time when tension has grown nationwide between police and members of the public, particularly people of color, following the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Montgomery County Sheriff Darren Popkin said having a diverse police force is essential.

“We live in a county that is multiracial and multilingual,” Popkin said. “The attempt to make our workforce mirror our community is incredibly vital. We work on that continually.”

Rockville Police Chief Victor Brito said he pays attention to the mindset of officers.

“You have to hire the right people,” Brito said, adding that officers must strive to be “selfless.”

“You have to develop and train our officers in the spirit of service. Police cannot ever separate ourselves from our communities that we serve,” Brito said.

According to Jones, one thing the county police department does to help it understand racial and cultural issues is to have police recruits visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C.

“We have officers born in the 1990s who didn’t experience a lot of what went on,” said Jones.

Jones said that his department is in the process of conducting a “racial audit” that will provide findings and recommendations on what he and other leaders can improve.

“We’re going to make that known to the public,” said Jones.

Other officials who spoke at the meeting included Gaithersburg Police Chief Mark Sroka, Takoma Park Police Chief Antonio DeVaul and Darryl McSwain, the chief of Montgomery County’s division of the Maryland-National Capital Park Police.

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