Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich offered messages that were supportive of police officers, but also reflective of each’s politics, during a ceremony Thursday in Rockville celebrating the Montgomery County police department’s 100th anniversary.
Hogan, a Republican, and Elrich, a Democrat, joined police Chief Marcus Jones and others at the ceremony held at the Red Brick Courthouse in Courthouse Square. Other county officials and a contingent of law enforcement officers were also there. The ceremony also featured the unveiling of items placed in a time capsule 25 years ago commemorating the department’s 75th anniversary.
Hogan began his remarks by pointing out that multiple law enforcement officers throughout Maryland have been shot at or attacked in some way, fatally in one case in Wicomico County. Those incidents included one last weekend when a Germantown man shot at a county police cruiser, leading to a pursuit that ended in Virginia. The officer was not injured.
“These recent incidents are just the latest reminder that every single time we call on our law enforcement officers and all of our first responders who stand on the front lines and protect the rest of us, of the risks that the brave men and women, like all of you, face when you answer the call to serve each and every day, never knowing if it will be your last,” Hogan said.
Hogan pointed out that county officers were among the first law enforcement officers from Maryland to respond during the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Hogan noted that it is a particularly challenging time for law enforcement nationally, which is dealing with a rise in violent crime across the county and the country, as well as difficulties with retention and recruitment of officers. The governor touted his recent “Re-fund the Police” initiative – a $500 million investment in support for law enforcement, crime control and victim protection services.
“Montgomery County Police Department begins its second century during an especially challenging time for law enforcement in our state, and our nation,” he said.
Elrich, who is running for re-election in the July 19 primary, said he also recognizes the struggles with recruitment and retention of officers. But he said the county does not need to choose between funding the police and funding social services. Social justice activists in the county have advocated for more social services following a series of altercations between officers and residents in recent years. Some of those altercations have resulted in officers fatally shooting people.
“We get a lot of calls for increasing social services… . We’ve got a find a way to do both,” he said. “We cannot turn our back on the needs for social services and trying to put people on the right path and prevent them from going on the wrong path.”
Elrich noted that officers are being asked to fulfill more responsibilities today than in the past.
“Today a police officer is expected to be a social worker, a mediator, a lawyer, a teacher and a superhero all at the same time,” he said.
County Council President Gabe Albornoz, who also spoke, recalled when he was 12 years old after his family had moved to Bethesda. One day, an older woman in the neighborhood with whom he had become friendly, was brutally murdered in an apparent botched robbery, he said.
The next day, Albornoz said, a police detective came to their house to ask questions. Albornoz recalled that he was scared.
“As a little boy who had never been exposed to that kind of evil, an evil that officers know all too well, that detective was truly remarkable,” he said. “That detective was patient. That detective was humble. And that detective realized that I as a little boy wanted to do whatever I could to provide information to solve that case … .”
Albornoz said those are the types of gestures by police that it’s important for the community to recognize.
“These are complicated times. We know that. But what I want to do is recognize that we see you. We appreciate you,” he said.
During Thursday’s ceremony, Jones revealed items retrieved from a time capsule that was buried 25 years ago and dug up to celebrate the department’s 75th anniversary. Among the items in that time capsule were a Polaroid camera, several uniform patches and a uniform that was current for the time.
Jones said another time capsule commemorating the 100th anniversary will be buried with items that include a Taser, mobile data computer, body camera and a face mask to symbolize the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jones, who has been with the department for 36 years, said officers in the county are in as challenging an environment as he has ever seen for law enforcement.
“There have been challenges and controversies,” he said. “But I can say without fear or contradiction that we have met those challenges and we have navigated the controversies, and we have become a stronger police department as a result.”
Dan Schere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org