Montgomery executive candidates talk safety at Silver Spring forum -- Gazette.Net







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The story has been corrected. An explanation follows.

From putting police officers in every county high school to increasing diversity on the police and fire departments, Montgomery County’s four county executive candidates discussed public safety issues with residents in Silver Spring Thursday.

Republican Jim Shalleck and Democrats Isiah Leggett, Douglas M. Duncan and Philip M. Andrews agreed that Montgomery County is generally safe, but each discussed what he has done or would do to maintain and improve public safety in the county at the event Thursday evening at the Long Branch Community Center.

Each of the candidates drew on experience he had accumulated in answering the questions asked of them.

Leggett and Duncan have each overseen the county police department while serving as county executive, while Andrews is the chairman of the County Council’s Public Safety Committee. Shalleck is a former prosecutor in The Bronx, N.Y., who prosecuted Son of Sam serial killer David Berkowitz.

Shalleck and Duncan proposed increasing the number of police officers available in the county’s schools.

Duncan said he would like to see the county invest in providing more school resource officers, police officers who are stationed in school buildings.

When he was county executive, from 1994 until 2006, the county had a resource officer in every county high school and has pulled back from that, Duncan said.

He said he’d like to see an officer stationed to each of the county’s 20 high school clusters, as well as looking at some middle schools, he said.

Shalleck went one step further, calling for a uniformed officer and marked police vehicle at every school in the county.

He also wants to see the county school system eliminate portable classrooms, saying they could be isolated targets in a school shooting or other incident.

“They’re disasters waiting to happen,” Shalleck said.

Leggett, the county’s current executive, talked about the numerous programs he’s helped fund to reduce crime and provide services for youth and families.

The county operating budget he recently proposed includes about $68 million to help with youth services, Leggett said.

To a question on reducing truancy, Leggett said the county has to help address issues with poverty and other problems that students are dealing with at home.

“That’s where you start to address the challenge of truancy,” he said.

To a question on reducing the number of African-Americans in the criminal justice system, Shalleck said the county needs to increase the diversity of the police and fire departments, as well as those who speak multiple languages.

Leggett said the problem starts in the education system and providing support for communities.

Andrews and Duncan both emphasized the importance of the county’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in addressing the problem.

Andrews said the county needs to support progressive policies of the detention center in rehabilitating prisoners to prevent recidivism.

The school system also needs to make sure it’s providing education in trade and apprenticeships for students who don’t plan on going on to college, Andrews said.

Editor’s note: The story originally misstated the number of high school clusters in the county.