One of the most important responsibilities of any local government is to provide for public safety.
FY14 will see the implementation of the second year of a three-year staffing plan that adds forty positions to the Police Department. These additional "boots on the ground" will target strategic areas of the County and respond to any upticks in crime.
The Council also added funding for an additional sharpshooting operation, as an effort to control the County's significant population of deer.
Managing the County's Significant Deer Population May 16, 2013
Deer damage to the forest undergrowth, collisions with automobiles, and farm crop and landscape damage is an ongoing problem. As a member of the Public Safety Committee, with oversight of this issue, and as someone who almost hit a deer myself and sees deer regularly when walking my dog, I have worked hard on this issue for a number of years.
We are making modest progress. Our continuing concern about the deer overpopulation problem in our neighborhoods has resulted in action in two areas. Montgomery County Parks Department has been conducting controlled hunts in county owned parks for several years using police sharpshooters. The county has established a deer donation program for area food banks.
A contributing factor to the problem is deer that reside in the national parks like the C&O Canal which are controlled by the National Park Service (NPS) and come out of these protected areas into our communities. NPS policies require a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review in order to remove native wildlife from a park. An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) must be completed. The most recent example is the Rock Creek process which took six years to complete that cost $450,000 resulting in a controlled hunt this year.
On April 19, we received a response from the NPS Regional Director indicating that they are looking for funding to complete the required process. We are in direct contact as well with the Superintendent of the C & O Canal who is working with us to solve this piece of the deer problem.
I will keep you informed as I receive additional information.
Public Safety and Safety Net April 3, 2013
Public safety is another fundamental responsibility of local government, and as a member of the Public Safety Committee, it is a top priority of mine. I am similarly committed to maintaining our county's strong safety net programs that safeguard our most vulnerable residents. The County Executive's recommended budget provides significant resources for both of these objectives.
I am very pleased that the County Executive has recommended doubling the amount of School Resource Officers in the Montgomery County Police Department's budget. These officers are located at Montgomery County high schools on a full-time basis, and are a proactive approach to enhancing school safety. The County Executive has also recommended implementing the second year of a MCPD staffing plan that adds boots on the ground and assigns a Community Action team to each of the six police districts. Increased staffing, along with retirement, is recommended to be filled through two new recruit classes, this summer and next.
Each year our county's budget includes resources for services that protect our county's most vulnerable population. These services include trauma and crisis center services, eviction prevention, early childhood programs, utility assistance, support of community-based health clinics, and the County's supplement of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit. I am pleased the County Executive's budget reflects a continued commitment to providing these safety net services, and they will certainly have my support as the Council works its way through the budget process this spring.
Effects Bargaining on the Ballot September 25, 2012
Last spring, all nine Montgomery County Councilmembers voted to support a critical reform at the Montgomery County Police Department. The County Executive signed it into law.
Under existing County law, collective bargaining remains available for wages and benefits and workplace conditions, and every union in the County has the right to bargain for them.
"Effects bargaining," however, means that Police Chief Tom Manger has to bargain the effects of any management decision with the Fraternal Order of Police leadership. Such mandated bargaining prevents the Chief from effectively carrying out his job of managing the Police Department in the most productive and efficient way possible -- protecting both his officers and the lives and property of County residents.
No other police union in the State of Maryland has "effects bargaining." No other Montgomery County employees' union group has this power in their contract.
That's why the County Council unanimouslyrepealed "effects bargaining" this spring. That's why the County Executive signed it into law.
My colleagues and I, the County Executive, and your Police Chief ask for your support FOR Question B.
Even with the repeal of effects bargaining, the Police Department will still maintain its requirement to bargain with the Fraternal Order of Police leadership on wages, benefits, hours, working conditions, grievances, schedules, leave and more...just like other County unions and other police unions around the State.
Here are just a few examples of the consequences of "effects bargaining":
Under effects bargaining, the distribution of critical police equipment must be bargained with the Union.
Under effects bargaining, police officers stilldon't have to sign their time cards. Can you imagine working at an agency where managers can't even require employees to sign time cards?
When the Police Chief needed to redeploy officers last year to immediately respond to an uptick in crimes against residents and property in Silver Spring and the Route 29 corridor last year, the Union leaders demanded that he bargain over that - even though officers had already volunteered to shift to meet the problems!
The Police Department's revised policy on "Use of Force" -- important to protecting the public and officers alike - was sent to the Police Union for their "approval" on June 27, 2008. More than four years later, Chief Manger is still waiting. In all, 15 policies are awaiting union "approval" -- 12 of them for over two years.
The Police Chief could not even require that police officers have County email accounts - or check their email. It took months to negotiate that common sense measure with Union leaders.
The Police Chief wanted to require that officers use yellow "Police" armbands in situations where officers in civilian clothes responded off-duty to incidents (such as the Discovery standoff ) - in order to protect officers from "friendly fire" and make clear to civilians who were the police in a given situation. Using effects bargaining, the Union objected.
It is our job to make sure that our government serves our residents well and that critical public safety departments are run efficiently.
With this reform, we will have a better department, the union will maintain its collective bargaining rights and the Police Chief will have the basic management rights he needs to manage the department - protecting officers and the lives and property of County residents.
I urge you to vote FOR Question B.
Ambulance Fee May 17, 2012
In 2010 the County Executive proposed, and by a 5-4 vote the County Council passed, what is referred to as the "ambulance fee". The fee was to be collected by the county from insurance providers for ambulance service.
The legislation was opposed by the county volunteer fire companies. They mounted a referendum campaign which overturned the law.
This month the County Executive sent a new version of the ambulance fee called the Emergency Medical Services-Insurance Reimbursement Bill #17-12, for County Council consideration. The Bill was introduced, a public hearing held on May 8, and the Public Safety Committee, of which I am a member, voted 2-1 against the measure. I was one of the two members voting against it in committee.
However, by a 6-3 vote, the full Council embraced the measure. The bill was amended in the Public Safety Committee, and the version that became law now makes it explicit that county residents do not pay and that volunteer departments will be held harmless for the loss of any donations resulting from the biil.
Notwithstanding these improvements and others, I voted against the measure in full Council primarily on the grounds that this issue was put to referendum 18 months ago, and was the first and only law ever rejected by the voters. While there are arguments on both sides of the issue, I believe we would have been better served to have respected the will of the people as reflected in the referendum. Now, the people may get to decide once more if there is a successful effort to put it on the ballot in November.
Suspects Charged in Two Potomac Burglaries November 21, 2011
Detectives from the Montgomery County Police 1st District Investigative Section have charged two suspects for two burglaries that occurred in November in Potomac. The suspects were identified as Demar Anthony Brown, age 27, with no fixed address, and Jonathan Abraham Mulatu, age 20, of Baltimore.
In the month of September, 1st District detectives and police crime analysts noticed a burglary trend emerging in the Potomac area. The burglaries appeared to have similar characteristics, to include the type of property that was stolen and the fact that force was used to enter the homes. Patrol officers and detectives began to examine the trend and determine possible suspects. Detectives developed Brown as a possible suspect and shared this information with other jurisdictions, to include Fairfax County, Virginia.
On November 8, Montgomery County police officers became aware that Fairfax County had arrested Brown and Mulatu that day for committing a burglary in Great Falls, Fairfax County, Virginia. Working with Fairfax County detectives, Montgomery County detectives determined that Brown and Mulatu were responsible for at least two burglaries in Potomac. The two burglaries, one burglary at a residence in the 9800 block of Potomac Manors Drive and another burglary at a residence in the 11200 block of River View Drive, both occurred on November 5. Montgomery County Police 1st District detectives obtained a warrant for Brown on November 11 and obtained a warrant for Mulatu on November 16, charging the suspects with two counts of first-degree burglary. Because Brown and Mulatu remain in the custody of Fairfax County for the burglary committed in Great Falls, Montgomery County Police have placed detainers on both suspects for the cases in this county.
This investigation is on-going and Montgomery County detectives will continue to explore the probable involvement of Brown and Mulatu in other burglaries in the county.
An Update on the Proposed Curfew September 28, 2011
The much discussed and debated curfew, Bill 25-11, was introduced by the County President at the request of the County Executive on July 12. As introduced, the Bill would establish a curfew for minors between 11 pm and 5 am on Sunday through Thursday and from midnight until 5 am on Friday and Saturday nights.
On July 26, the Council held a public hearing on the proposal, where many county citizens testified at the hearing and strong positions were articulated for and against the Bill. We heard from our Chief of Police, who believes the curfew will be an important "tool" in the County's "toolbox" to deter crime; from parents who do not want our government telling them how to parent; from teenagers who lament the proposed loss of their capacity to move about freely; and from student athletes whose morning practices could be impacted by the morning hours of the curfew. From my perspective, each public hearing participant brought a unique, valid point of view to the conversation.
The Council's Public Safety Committee held its first worksession on the curfew this past Thursday - a worksession that lasted three hours. The rest of the Council joined Councilmember Andrews, Councilmember Elrich, and me - which is rare for a committee worksession.
Since its introduction, the County Executive has submitted several amendments to the Bill. One major change is that an offense associated with violating the curfew would be a civil one, as opposed to a criminal offense as originally proposed. The amendments also carve out several reasonable exceptions to the curfew, including returning home from work without a work permit or returning home from "an event at a place of public entertainment." Other exceptions include running an errand at the direction of a parent or attending certain other events.
The changes submitted by the County Executive, I believe, improve on the original draft of the Bill. But even with these modifications, I am still struggling with what I perceive to be a very broad brush approach that is of questionable effectiveness in addressing recent crime issues. I want to understand whether enhancing our loitering laws, to compliment relevant state laws already on the books, might be effective.
I have not made a final decision on this issue. Before it is considered by the full Council, the Public Safety Committee will hold at least one additional worksession on the curfew on November 3. Stay tuned.
New Leadership in the 2nd Police District September 28, 2011
There is good news and bad news on the District 1 public safety front. The bad news is that Captain Russ Hamill will no longer be Commander of the Bethesda Police District - but that's because (and this is the good news) he has been appointed by the County Executive to serve as the new Assistant Chief of Police.
While this is a loss for Bethesda, it is a tremendous plus for the County. He will be hard to replace, but I am sure that Chief of Police Tom Manger will install another excellent police professional in the Commander's role.
Commander Hamill has been outstanding. He responded quickly and effectively to constituent concerns, went out of his way to connect with concerned citizens and the business community, deal with complaints, and take initiatives that kept all of us informed when possible. I wish him the best of luck in his new post.
Additional Crossing Guard at North Chevy Chase ES August 11, 2011
Earlier this summer, I met with members of the North Chevy Chase community regarding their concerns related to pedestrian safety in the area of North Chevy Chase Elementary School. This area is already a congested area for pedestrians, and it will most likely get worse next month because of BRAC. As you may know, due to the closure of Walter Reed, National Naval Medical Center is expected to see 2500 new employees and could get up to one million visitors over the course of a year starting in September.
One concern of theirs I took particular interest in was the pedestrian crossing of Manor Road and Jones Bridge Road, near the elementary school. With students headed back to school at the end of the month, I share the community's concern that students crossing at this intersection to get to school could be in even greater danger due to the increased traffic activity. That is why I wrote to the Board of Education to express my support, and likewise ask for their support, in adding an additional crossing guard at this intersection. I believe it would go a long way in making our students at North Chevy Chase ES safer and maybe even put their parents� minds slightly more at ease on the first day of school.
Proposed Curfew for Minors July 29, 2011
As most of you probably know, several weeks ago our County Executive sent to our Coucil a proposal to establish a curfew for teens uder the age of 18 in our couty. The District of Columbia and Prince George's County have long-standing curfews.
However, as a member of the Public Safety Committee, I was more than a little surprised by this proposal insofar as nothing had been shared with our Committee leading us to believe that we had a very serious problem on our hands that necessitated such a sweeping and dramatic measure. Indeed, the statistics that had been shared with us suggested just the opposite -- that the trend lines were positive, even with respect to gang violence.
But there was a serious incident in Silver Spring that made the County Executive conclude that more dramatic measures are needed. That incident involved scores of youth, some under the age of 18 -- and some older -- from Prince George's County and the District of Columbia that were looking for and finding trouble. The incident resulted in a stabbing. More troubling, given cell phone technology, the gangs were able to disperse and gather again beyond the reach of the police. After conferring with the Police Chief and the Silver Spring business community, the County Executivedirected that the legislation be sent to us.
There is no question that as Council President Ervin, the District Councilmember who represents Silver Spring, stated, Silver Spring needs more attention and the people there need to be and feel safe. The business community in Silver Spring in particular is strongly behind the curfew given the investments that they have made, and the new investments such as The Filmore that are about to be realized, and the fear that concerns about public safety will reverse all of the positives that have resulted from the successful revitalization of that part of our community. There is broad agreement that we need to do more to make sure that Silver Spring is a safe place to live, work, and play.
Where there is more debate is on the question of whether the single incident itself justifies a county wide curfew for our teens and whether such a curfew is effective. There certainly has been more than one incident -- there has been an alarming uptick in juvenile crime. But almost all parties agree that it was this July 4th weekend incident that prompted this response. Yet, even here, the gangs gathered before the curfew would have gone into effect, and the ages included a significant number of young people who were 18 or older. So, it has been argued by some that the curfew would not have even prevented this situation from happening. More broadly, there are scores of studies that cast questions on the effectiveness of curfews in bringing down crime -- as well as studies that support them. In addition, there are obvious issues with respect to civil liberties, concerns about racial profiling, the potential negative impact on the local economy, the negative signal it sends to the business community regarding the safety of our community, and the fact that our teens really have no place to go and gather.
I really regret that we did not begin from a shared understanding of the nature of the July 4th incident and the concerns of the Silver Spring community and build up from there by exploring all of the options for addressing those concerns. It may be that a curfew is the right response, but at this point in time, I am certainly not convinced of that. Our Public Safety Committee will hold its first work session in mid-September.
I do solicit your thoughts on this issue. At our public hearing on Tuesday, we heard a wide range of opinions, from our Police Chief telling us that he thinks it would be an important tool to deter teens who cannot gather in either Prince George's or DC from using our community to fight things out; mothers who do not want the government telling them how to raise their children; students and civil libertarians protesting the loss of liberty.
Our County's Relationship with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) July 29, 2011
We have come through, and we are not done, hard economic times in our County. And we have asked our county employees to sacrifice to help us meet our obligation to you. And they have. Not without struggles and hard words, but they have.
Our hardest struggles have been with the union representing our brave men and women who every day protect us on the front lines in our community. In years past, they have bargained for a one tier disability system that was unique in our county, and a previous Council 30 years ago gave them expansive bargaining rights that no police union in the state has. In both cases, these unique arrangements have been shown to be contrary to the public interest.
To our Council's credit, in both instances we reformed these practices to be consistent with the how we treat all other employees, including our other public safety employees such as firefighters.
Our Police Chief in particular strongly endorsed reforming the collective bargaining law. Regrettably, his stance was met with disdain by the FOP, who referred to him as a "bureaucrat" and an inept manager. I believe we have a good and capable Police Chief, and I felt that we could not ignore his strong plea to untie his hands so he could properly manage his department. Under the prior rules of the game, he literally could not instruct his staff to check their county email accounts without "bargaining" the "effects."
I deeply regret that many of our police now feel as though the Council and our County does not respect either them or their important work. We do. But even respecting them and their work could not allow us to turn a blind eye to abuses of our disability system that cost you millions a year or bargaining laws that led to an incredibly inefficient system. It is my hope that in the days and months ahead that we will find a way to engage in a way that is civil and respectful. Just as we are not like Wisconsin and Ohio and other states that have shown such contempt for collective bargaining, we must guard against this "us vs. them" mentality that seems so rampant in our federal government these days. Not here. Not in Montgomery County.
FY12 Budget: Public Safety June 2, 2011
Besides education, I know that public safety is a primary concern in our community - and in fact, the public safety budget comprises 40.4% of our total County Government budget. I believe my colleagues on the Public Safety committee and I made appropriate restorations to the County Executive's recommended budget that reflect this concern in a way that balances the need to make budget reductions while providing our public safety personnel with the resources they require.
One such restoration I felt strongly about was the need to have our Bethesda Police Station open 24 hours a day.The County Executive had recommended that it be closed to the public over night in order to achieve savings, and I am pleased that my colleagues supported my inclination that it is best left open during overnight hours.We also restored funding for a Fire Recruit Class that is badly needed to address retirement and other staffing challenges.I believe having this class in place will go a long way toward staving off personnel deficits and overtime costs.
Finally, we heard from many members of our school community that they consider School Resource Officers to be tremendously important.I am pleased that the Council restored, to be funded out of the Police budget, six of these positions - one for each police district - so that their work of contributing to a safe environment for our students will continue.
Police Asking for Our Help in Lululemon Incident March 14, 2011
County Police have asked that I reach out to you to seek your help in solving the awful crime that occurred on Friday night on Bethesda Avenue. Police are specifically looking to speak to anyone out on Bethesda Row on March 11 who may have seen or heard anything out of the ordinary.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Homicide/Sex Section at 240-773-5070. Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477) or 240-773-TIPS (8477). Anonymous tips can also be provided by typing "MCPD" plus the tip on a cell phone or PDA and texting it to 274637 (CRIMES). A substantial reward is available for information that leads to the apprehension of the suspects in this case.
Please see the press release for additional information. I hope you will pass this request on to your neighbors. Thank you for your assistance.
Police Investigate Murder in Bethesda March 14, 2011
I regret the tragic nature of this message, but I am relaying this weekend's press release from the Montgomery County Police Department regarding a murder in Bethesda. I know that you join me in extending our heartfelt sympathies to all those touched by this tragedy and hope for a speedy recovery for the surviving young woman. Meanwhile my staff and I continue to stay in close contact with the police regarding this horrendous crime.
Police Investigate the Murder of a Female Clothing Store
Employee and the Sexual Assault of Her Co-Worker
Detectives from the Montgomery County Police Major Crimes Division - Homicide/Sex Section are investigating the murder of a female store employee and the sexual assault of her female co-worker that occurred last night in a woman's athletic clothing store in Bethesda.
This morning at approximately 8:00 a.m., a female employee arrived at the "lululemon athletica" clothing store located at 4856 Bethesda Avenue. She found the front door unlocked and when she stepped inside could tell that items in the store had been disturbed. She also heard some faint noise coming from the back of the store. Realizing that something was wrong, she left the store to seek help and call police.
At approximately 8:12 a.m., 2nd District police responded to the store for the report of a burglary. Officers found a 30-year-old female store employee dead inside at the back of the store. They also found another store employee, a 27-year-old female, bound and injured, but still alive. She was transported to an area hospital for treatment.
Through the course of the investigation it was learned that the two victims had closed the store at 9:00 p.m. and left a short time later. One of the victims realized that she had left something inside the store and did not have the means to get back inside. She phoned her co-worker and asked if the co-worker would come back to the store to let her in. The co-worker agreed. They unlocked the store and entered.
It is believed that shortly thereafter two men, dressed all in black with faces and hands covered, entered the store. A robbery of commercial proceeds occurred, one victim was murdered, and the other victim was sexually assaulted. It is not known if any other property was taken from the store.
Because the suspects wore masks and gloves, the race of the suspects is not known. One suspect is described as being 6' tall, the other a little over 5'3" tall. No further description is currently available.
The body of the murder victim will be transported to the Medical Examiner's Office in Baltimore for an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
Anyone who has information about this homicide and sexual assault is asked to call the Homicide/Sex Section at 240-773-5070. Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477) or 240-773-TIPS (8477). Crime Solvers is offering a cash reward of up to $1,000 for information provided to them that leads to the arrest and/or indictment of the persons responsible for these felony crimes. Anonymous tips can also be provided by typing "MCPD" plus the tip on a cell phone or PDA and texting it to 274637 (CRIMES).
Ambulance Fee on the Ballot October 27, 2010
As many of you know, as we go to the voting booth this November, a question will appear on the ballot related to the Emergency Medical Services Transport Fee, or, the "Ambulance Fee." This fee was included in the Fiscal Year 2011 Operating Budget, after passing the Council narrowly by a 5-4 vote. I was one of the four votes that did not support inclusion of this fee in our County's budget.Following its passage, the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association led a successful effort, after extensive court review, to put this fee to referendum.
The County Executive, who strongly supports the fee, anticipates that the voters will reject the fee and has sent us his proposed budget savings that will be necessary to make up for the absence of the fee ($14.3 million, a number that is arguably somewhat inflated). His proposed cuts would touch almost all aspects of county services, including fire and rescue services; police; recreation; & human services. The Council has the final word on the budget however, and will most certainly be exploring alternatives in December should the voters in fact reject the fee as the County Executive assumes.
Here is the referendum language as it will appear on the ballot:
Referendum on Law Enacted by County Council
Emergency Medical Services Transport Fee
Shall the Act to require the collection of an emergency medical services transport (ambulance) fee from: (1) County residents to the extent of the resident's insurance coverage; and (2) non-County residents subject to a hardship waiver become law?
To help you in your own discernment process on this complex and important issue, I have sought to summarize the arguments of the leading proponent of the fee -- the County Executive - and the leading opponents - the Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association. There are obviously more people and organizations that have views on this public policy debate, but for this purpose, their positions will suffice. I hope you find this information helpful as you head to the pollsand decide the issue for us.
The County Executive projects the Ambulance Fee will raise $14-17 million a year, money that in the future will be dedicated to public safety. He points out that neighboring jurisdictions like Fairfax, Frederick, Prince George's, Carroll, Charles, Arlington, and Prince William counties collect the fee, along with Alexandria, Baltimore, and the District of Columbia.
Proponents stress that County residents will not pay for medical transport - ambulance reimbursement will be billed directly to residents' insurance companies, which have already factored the cost of patient transport into their rate schedules. Ambulance reimbursement will be waived for uninsured residents and will be covered by tax dollars. According to the CE, there is no evidence that ambulance reimbursement will raise insurance rates.
Further, he argues that there is no evidence that those in need of transport will be dissuaded from calling 9-1-1 because their insurance is going to be billed or because they are uninsured. The County will fund a public education campaign to make sure that residents know there are no charges to them for emergency medical services; no changes in service; and the quality of patient care will continue to be the highest priority for Montgomery County's Fire & Rescue Service. A resident's ability or non-ability to pay will never be considered when providing service.
Finally, the County Executive argues that in such fiscally difficult times, when we are cutting vital public services, to leave $14 million plus "on the table" would be a grave mistake, and the consequences of rejecting the fee will be felt by all citizens.
The Montgomery County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association strongly disagrees with the view of the County Executive. Fundamentally, they argue that ambulance services represent a core government function, not something that should be paid for by a special "fee" or turned into a "profit-making center." It is something that our taxes pay for. Instead of charging for this fee, the Volunteers maintain that the County should scrutinize its structure and delivery of services so that the County operates in the most efficient way possible. They believe such an examination and achieving such efficiencies have yet to be realized.
Volunteers also believe, contrary to the County Executive's assessment, that residents will in fact be discouraged from calling 9-1-1. They cite statistics from Fairfax County, where the per capita number of calls to 9-1-1 dropped once a fee was instituted. You don't want someone who thinks they may be having a heart attack not call 9-1-1 because of concerns about paying for an ambulance, they argue. Moreover, the studies have not closely examined how ambulance fees affect the uninsured, under-insured, and other less-advantaged groups.
Finally, the Volunteers are very proud of the vital service they provide to County's residents at no costs. They do not see the logic in charging for a service that they already provide for free. It will be demoralizing; undercut Volunteer fundraising efforts (people will give less for a service that is charged for); and undermine one of the most cost-effective and critically important components of our combined career and volunteer fire and rescue services.
As you can see, there are indeed compelling arguments on both sides of this issue - an issue that you will decide at the ballot box on November 2. Good luck!