A little over three months since former police chief Alan Goldberg offered his resignation, the city of Takoma Park hasn’t even selected the people who will select the next chief.
But rest assured, the process is moving.
The Takoma Park City Council, along with deputy city manager Jason Damweber, hosted a modest collection of citizens at the Takoma Park Community Center Thursday evening to discuss where the city manager’s office was in the selection process and to hear questions and comments from citizens.
The few citizens who were present—a curiously low turnout for a typically opinionated town—all spoke at one point or another to voice their concerns over the selection process.
A mother of a young child who has worked as an EMT spoke about the need for a police chief who is sensitive to racial issues in the current political climate.
Takoma Park citizens who have lived in the city for decades championed the city’s racial and ethnic diversity and spoke of how a police chief must be able to represent all Takomans.
There were even a few calls to require that the next chief lives in Takoma Park, which wasn’t met with much support from the city council.
Councilman Fred Schultz said that the city wants to keep open the possibility of hiring from within, and making Takoma Park citizenship a requirement would seriously hinder that process, something he called “not a good thing.”
Mayor Kate Stewart agreed and pointed to the dedication of Takoma Park police officers, especially the ones who commute.
“I think it limits us in who we may want to select. It might be an added benefit if someone did live in the community, but I wouldn’t want to require that,” Stewart said. “When you have a job that is very high pressured and can be stressful, lots of times you like to be able to go home and forget your job and have a very different experience … Some of (our officers) live fairly far, in areas where they don’t see their neighbors, and they talk about how the job of a police officer is a very stressful job, they are on alert all the time.”
For the most part, however, Stewart echoed what the handful of present citizens had to say:
“As I joked tonight, we’re a very special community. There are a lot of challenges and opportunities … We are right on the border of our nation’s capital. We are in a corner of Montgomery County and (bordered by) Prince George’s County. So there are great, unique circumstances for anyone who takes on this position … I think there are a lot of opportunities for a police chief who likes a challenge, who likes an engaged citizenry of residents and who also likes an engaged city council,” the mayor said.
Still to go in the process, though, is selecting the hiring firm that will ultimately choose the next chief.
“Proposals are due July 7th,” Damweber said after the meeting. “(Then we will) select a firm, meet with a firm, have conversations about what we’re looking for, what the process looks like.”
Damweber added that once this process concludes, he hopes an actual search can kick off by mid-August.
He stressed cautious optimism, however.
“Ideally—ideally—once a firm is selected, the process would last two to three months.”