GAITHERSBURG Md. (FOX 5 DC) - There are new ideas in Montgomery County on how to hire, train and pay police officers. It comes as the county police union says it’s seeing a surge in officers considering retirement.
“We have 200 to 250 officers that can retire today,” said Lee Holland, corporate vice-president of FOP Lodge 35.
Holland said there’s growing concern about those officers deciding to leave as phone calls inquiring about retirement spike.
“I may say we probably get one (call) a month, and we’ve probably gotten upwards of 20 to 25 this month,” Holland said. “So it’s a real big uptick.”
He said there’s also the issue of a record low number of applicants to fill open positions.
”If these people decide they’re going to leave, we’re not going to have the ability to replace these people,” he said.
Holland said officers aren’t feeling a lot of community support right now, and there’s uncertainty about changes proposed by the county council.
Councilmember Will Jawando says he wants to reimagine police in the county and has already proposed legislation that, among other things, changes the police deadly force standard from reasonable to necessary. He also championed a resolution to make racism a public health crisis. Now he’s working on something new, a measure focusing on hiring, training, requirements of police.
”If you go to certain parts of the world Denmark, Norway, certain parts of Europe, police are in school for two to three years,” said Jawando. “Here we do about 24 weeks.”
He said longer training should be coupled with a focus on psychological examinations and communication skills.
Jawando said the county also needs to look at paying officers more money.
“Are we paying officers enough so they can live here? We have one of the lowest pay for starting officers in the region even though we're the wealthiest county,” he said.
While more training and higher pay would cost more money, Jawando said if the county can shift police away from dealing with issues like homelessness and mental illness, there could potentially be fewer officers who are more highly trained.
“We want to make changes that are going to help police be more equipped and be compensated well and protect and serve in a way that does not discriminate and makes everyone feel safe,” he said.
Jawando said he’s just started to work on the legislation.