The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35, the police union that represents sworn officers in Montgomery County, Maryland, said that two officers were assaulted in separate incidents the night of April 5, and the organization is drawing a direct link between the incidents and what the union calls “the anti-police narrative” from elected officials at national, state and local levels.
The unsigned statement from the union says officer morale has suffered and that the Montgomery County Police Department is seeing an increase in turnover.
The union’s statement said there are 14 officer candidates in entry level training at the academy, while 75 officers are expected to leave by the end of the year. It’s not clear whether those departures are tied to typical attrition rates or represent a spike in departures.
The statement reads in part, “Elected officials pushing an anti-police agenda make the GOOD officers feel what they worked so hard to accomplish is worthless.”
In February, Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones told the Montgomery County Council’s Public Safety Committee that “morale is low” and that many officers were considering heading for the door.
“Many are deciding that they will be leaving prior to their expected retirement date,” he said.
Asked about the statement from the union at an online briefing Thursday, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said, “This is not uniquely a Montgomery County problem; this is a national problem.”
Elrich, who has called for a change in policing, created the “Reimagining Public Safety Task Force.” The group issued its report in February.
Elrich said Thursday, “There is no doubt that there are issues with police members of departments. But it’s not like every policeman is guilty of everything that we associate with some of the worst actors.”
Currently, the county’s police department is facing a $1 million lawsuit by the mother of a 5-year-old boy who was screamed at, handcuffed and told he should get a “whooping” by officers when he was found off school grounds and brought back to his Silver Spring elementary school.
Elrich said he thought critics are wrong to say that police should never be called in cases where a child leaves school grounds, but said, “The problem isn’t that a police officer finds a kid and brings them back to school. The problem is what happens in that interaction.”
He added that “A lot of what we experience goes back to training. … There’s a lot of work we have to do.”
Elrich said the incidents that get attention obscure the good work that cops do, and that the problem interactions are “not all rogue officers. These are people who got trained and are often doing things that they were asked to do, and now we’re telling them ‘We don’t want you to do that.’”
Elrich gave an example: The county no longer prosecutes simple marijuana possession, yet the police still make arrests for it.
Of the police union, he said, “I hear their issue; they need to hear that the community wants policing in a different way than it’s been done before.”