Pick outsider as police chief, NAACP tells Duncan
Feb. 17, 1999

by Mark Celender

Staff Writer

The local NAACP, which has been harshly critical of the leadership of the Montgomery County Police Department, has given the Duncan administration the names of nine minority candidates for police chief -- and a blunt warning.

"All I can say is the new chief had better not be someone from within the department," said Linda Plummer, president of the Montgomery County Chapter of the NAACP.

Plummer said the civil rights group is not demanding that any of its nine candidates -- four women and five men -- be the county's new police chief.

Acting Police Chief Thomas Evans, who has been with the department since 1975, will not do, she said.

"We need an outsider," Plummer said. "Someone to come in and clean up the old boys' network."

That view may put the organization at odds once again with County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, who often has been criticized by Plummer and other NAACP leaders for being insensitive to blacks and other minorities.

Duncan angered Plummer's group in the early days of his first term in December 1994 when he fired former Police Chief Clarence Edwards and other black department heads. He replaced Edwards with Carol Mehrling, a white woman from within the department. She retired Feb. 3.

For more than two years, the NAACP has been systematically filing complaints with the department alleging police mistreatment of minorities, primarily young black males. The group has charged its complaints were not fully investigated by the department and has forwarded them to the U.S. Justice Department. Justice has yet to report its findings.

Last month, Leroy W. Warren Jr. of Silver Spring, a member of the NAACP national board of directors, wrote Duncan "to voice some serious concerns regarding the selection of a new chief of police."

"A number of individuals feel that the process is again stacked to allow for the selection of an 'insider/present employee' as the new chief," Warren wrote in a Jan. 24 letter. "There is little enthusiasm among most blacks for the selection of a present employee as the new chief of police."

Warren went on to say the department is in need of "an infusion of new blood and outside leadership."

"The continuation of the existing policy and new non-reform leadership will translate into four more years of fractured relations between your administration and many minority citizens," Warren wrote. "The past four years of your administration has been one of strained relationships and unpleasant feeling toward the police department and your political administration, by a large segment of the minority community."

But less than two weeks later, Duncan named Evans as acting chief when Mehrling retired after four years as chief.

Members of Duncan's staff, including spokesman David Weaver, said the administration has the highest regard for Evans, who has applied for the position of chief.

Weaver said Evans, who is white, is as likely a candidate for police chief as any of those submitted for consideration by the NAACP. "We are taking input from all segments of the community in our search for a chief," Weaver said. He added that it has been Evans' administrative abilities as the acting chief that enables Duncan to take more time in looking for a new chief. "Other than the media, there is no sense here that there is an outcry or critical mass to name someone sooner rather than later," Weaver said.

Bruce Romer, the county chief administrative officer who Duncan assigned to come up with a short list of candidates for chief, said the search continues. He said the NAACP's candidates would be contacted to confirm their interest in the position. Romer said last month that he had hoped to have a replacement for Mehrling before she retired.

Romer said more than 50 applications have been received.

Meanwhile, Ronald W. Clarkson, 36, of Silver Spring has been appointed to the newly created post of police community relations facilitator by Duncan.

Weaver said citizens who might be intimidated going to police headquarters to complain about an officer will be able instead to file complaints with Clarkson. He will have offices in the Executive Office Building in Rockville and satellite offices in Bethesda, Silver Spring, Wheaton, Germantown and Fairland at existing county office buildings. He will be paid $49,000 a year.