Last year Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger met with County residents after police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana were caught on camera shooting African-American men.
The videos promoted protest and outrage across the Country, including in Montgomery County, from people who thought police departments did not represent the communities they sworn to protect. At one of the community forums, Manger promised to continue to try to diversify the County’s police department, but it was hard to keep up with the County’s quickly changing demographics.
On Monday, the County Council Public Safety Committee discussed how the Montgomery County Police Department could keep up with the County’s changing demographics and recruit and hire more minority officers.
“It’s very tedious process,” said Montgomery County Police Captain James Fenner about the hiring process.
Fenner, of the department’s personnel division, outlined the various outreach programs the Montgomery County Police Department has, specifically targeting Historically Black Colleges and Universities to hire more racially diverse officers. Fenner said the hiring process is long and that Montgomery County Police may get 1,200 applicants, but will only graduate about 40 officers in one class.
The Montgomery County Police Department is 76 percent white, 12 percent African-American, 8 percent Hispanic, 4 percent Asian and .08 percent American Indian among its sworn officers.
Fenner said the biggest barrier to recruitment for minority officer was the Montgomery County Police Department was in a competitive market with other nearby departments offering competitive starting salaries.
Starting salary for Montgomery County Police Officers is $50, 462 a year, while nearby jurisdictions such as Fairfax County ($53, 371/year) and Washington D.C. ($55, 362/year) are slightly higher.
In addition, Fenner said Montgomery County Police is using its new cadet program, which allows candidates who are 18 years or older with a high school diploma, to work and train with Montgomery County Police and earn college credits and apply for a police job after the program ends.
“I think it’s the cost of living and we need to, in my opinion, salaries that are attractive,” Fenner said. “For someone just starting coming out of school, they’re going to have some student loans, they’re going to have cost of living.”
Fenner said the cadet program gives an opportunity to some who would have not had the opportunity otherwise, given they do not have 60 hours of college credits-- a requirement for Montgomery County Police officers.
“When you look at the whole number, it would take a long time to bend the curve if we’re doing eight to 12 cadets a year,” said Council member Marc Elrich (D-at large).