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by Judith Hruz
Former county police chief Tom Manger was about to leave for vacation when he sat down to reminisce about her career in law enforcement.
But it was no ordinary vacation.
It was the longest vacation – three weeks – he had had in years — make that decades — without worrying about getting that phone call that a major crime had been committed and he needed to return to police headquarters.
“The lack of stress is palpable,” he said. “There is no more feeling of dread.”
That stint in Montgomery County is three or four lifetimes of most commanders.
The average tenure as a chief is three to four years, he said. “It consumes your life.”.
If that’s the case, Manger holds several “records” in leadership roles. He served six years as chief of the Fairfax County (Virginia) Police Department before coming to Montgomery County, where he was sworn in as chief on Jan. 30, 2004.
He is the second longest-serving Montgomery County police chief behind James S. McAuliffe, who served from 1955 until 1971.
Manger was born in Baltimore. Being a police officer was not his goal growing up; he had hoped to play professional football – for the hometown Baltimore Colts, of course.
His family moved to Montgomery County, where he attended Montgomery Blair High School and headed to the University of Maryland in the days of Watergate with the hope of becoming a journalist.
“I wanted to right the world’s wrongs,” he said.
In a criminology class, “everything changed.”
After graduation from Maryland, he began his career in law enforcement as a “summer cop” in Ocean City. It seemed fitting for the native of Baltimore – who spent his summer vacations there.
“I felt that was the right job for me,” he said of being a police officer. “That never ended for me.”
On Jan. 3, 1977, he was sworn in as a police officer in Fairfax County, where he rose through the ranks. He served as chief from 1998 to early 2004.
While in Fairfax County, terrorists flew an airplane into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. A year later, snipers terrorized Montgomery County and Northern Virginia.
He called those experiences among “the most impactful” of his career.
When Manger announced his retirement, County Executive Marc Elrich (D) issued a statement praising the outgoing chief.
“Chief Manger has set the bar high for police leadership, outstanding service both locally and nationally, and leaves the department and county better and safer than when he arrived,” he said.
Elrich continued: “While other departments were shying away from body-worn cameras, he proposed requiring them for all officers, wearing one himself as a demonstration of his leadership and commitment to improved transparency and accountability. He implemented de-escalation training for officers long before it became a part of the national dialogue. He was instrumental in the passage of the 2016 Drunk Driving Reduction Act, which strengthened Maryland’s ignition interlock requirement for first-time drunk drivers. Known as Noah’s Law, the act honors fallen Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta.”
Manager said he is proud of what he accomplished as chief.
“There are always things we could do better or build on,” he said, “but generally I accomplished everything I wanted.”
An Olney resident, Manger is now working as a senior associate with the Major Cities Chiefs Association, handling intergovernmental and legislative affairs.
As for his three-week vacation, it allowed him to spend uninterrupted time with his wife and two children.
And where did he go?
Ocean City, of course.
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