County Executive Marc Elrich will nominate Darryl McSwain, who is retired from Montgomery County police, as the department’s next chief, according to multiple County Council sources.
McSwain is currently the chief of the Maryland-National Capital Park Police, Montgomery County Division.
Word of McSwain’s nomination emerged Tuesday hours after Elrich announced that his police chief nominee, Tonya Chapman, had withdrawn from consideration to lead the 1,300-member force.
McSwain became the park police chief in May 2018 after spending 30 years with the Montgomery County Police Department, before retiring.
While with the police department, he served a variety of positions that included stints with the Silver Spring and Rockville districts, director of the Special Operations Division and assistant police chief, to which he was appointed in 2013.
During a Tuesday evening news conference, Elrich would not confirm that McSwain was his new nominee, saying that the executive branch hadn’t yet conducted a background check on a potential nominee or sent a name to the council for confirmation.
But Elrich said McSwain “expressed interest” in the police chief job.
The county executive added that he had a candidate in mind for the job, but did not name the person.
“In the recesses of my mind, there is someone,” he said.
Elrich said he hopes to nominate a candidate within the next few weeks, but the executive branch must first do its “due diligence” by checking out the person’s background.
When a reporter asked Elrich whether Acting Police Chief Marcus Jones, who was one of the final four candidates in the chief search, would be considered again, Elrich said he wouldn’t be.
Elrich said he thinks Chapman would have received the requisite five council votes needed for confirmation. But the leaks early on in the process about her candidacy and controversies surrounding her time as chief in Portsmouth, Va., he said, were factors that he thinks discouraged her from moving forward in the process.
“The way things got released and the leaking of information kind of focused on one moment in her life … and I think it’s unfortunate,” he said.
Council President Nancy Navarro said Wednesday morning that Elrich called her Tuesday to inform her of Chapman’s decision. Navarro said she wishes Chapman well.
“The council stood ready to undertake the process and do our part, but obviously there’s change and now we await the executive’s nominee,” she said.
Asked about Elrich’s choice to nominate McSwain, Navarro said she hadn’t received any word from the county executive on a candidate.
“At this point, I don’t have any comment, because I don’t have any candidate in front of us,” she said.
Navarro didn’t want to speculate on why Chapman withdrew, but said the length of time the process took could have been a factor. She said the original timeline was that Elrich was to have sent a nominee to the council prior to its August recess, with the goal of confirming a candidate when the council returned in September.
Navarro said she is concerned about the number of leaks to the media regarding the final candidates for consideration.
“I don’t think in any instance that should be acceptable. Everyone needs to conduct themselves professionally. Obviously, once the nominee is announced, everything should be made public. Transparency is very important, but leaks can have quite an impact on processes,” she said.
Navarro said she hopes Elrich sends a candidate as soon as possible, but will first do “thorough and appropriate vetting.”
Council member Andrew Friedson said Wednesday morning that he respects Chapman’s decision to do “what’s in her and her family’s best interest.”
“Now, it’s a matter of waiting for the county executive to send over his choice,” he said.
Asked about his thoughts on Elrich’s plans to nominate McSwain, Friedson declined to comment, saying he wasn’t aware of any decisions the county executive made on the chief search.
Friedson said he thinks there were problems in the selection process because the finalists were leaked to the media before the council learned of them from the executive branch and before the requisite vetting had taken place.
“This process was not one any of us should be proud of. For a decision as important as this, selecting a police chief that is responsible for the safety of 1.1 million residents, the way this process was handled was nowhere near satisfactory,” he said.
Friedson said he didn’t want to place the blame on anyone in particular, but it is important to “get the process right” for such an important decision.
“This is an important public position, but it’s also people. We’re talking about a 1,300-member police force, and we’re talking about a human being who is going to take over this job. And to be able to do the appropriate amount of vetting and have the questions answered in a way that doesn’t jeopardize the force. … I think that’s a critical aspect of doing our job,” he said.
McSwain could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Additionally, other council members were not immediately available for comment.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org