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Officials, activists weigh police, criminal justice reforms

scales of justiceSILVER SPRING – Local politicians and activists brainstormed solutions to mass incarceration, police misconduct and racial inequality in Maryland at a town hall panel July 2 organized by political organization Progressive Neighbors.

The forum focused on how the state of Maryland is addressing these issues as well as gun violence in the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death and the riots that followed in Baltimore.

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Rockville turnover examined as compensation considered

CashROCKVILLE – As recently as March, complaints against the City of Rockville continued with the president of the fraternal order of police calling turnover in the city a “crisis of personnel.”

As the city looks at how best to compensate its employees, employee representatives have argued current compensation causes employees to flee to neighboring jurisdictions. Although the city does not keep records on turnover, vacancy reports from the past year show changes in departments like police and public works.

During the ongoing debate in the city, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 117 President Michelle Milne has said officers are leaving for other jurisdictions, including the county police force, because of the city’s lack of pay raises. Officers have not gotten their stepped pay increases since 2010, in addition to concern over where Rockville falls in the market.

“This is a crisis of personnel that is unprecedented for this agency in the last 30 years,” Milne said in March.

Though Rockville does not keep specific records on how long people stay in their positions, it does report vacancies to the mayor and council each quarter. City officials began those reports about a year ago. So far there have been four reports posted. Those records show:

  • The city has an average of about 17 positions open at any given time.
  • At the moment, the city has 15 positions (full time and part time but not including temporary workers) listed for which people may apply, and another six that are vacant but may be in the middle of the recruiting process or not listed on the career opportunities site for other reasons.
  • In a Sentinel comparison in February, Gaithersburg and Takoma Park – smaller jurisdictions than Rockville – had comparable numbers of positions open relative to their staff size.
  • Of the positions currently open, the positions vacant for the longest are the purchasing manager, which has been open since Aug. 1, and the City Clerk, which has been open since Aug. 8. The city clerk position is awaiting mayor and council action before recruitment because they are considering changes to the clerk’s role and organization.

Some departments also have frequent movement among positions, like public works, which hires a number of laborers and maintenance workers to take care of streets and refuse throughout the city. In the last year, at least seven maintenance worker positions became available, and two remain vacant.

These position shifts also left laborer positions open in public works since often the laborers fill the maintenance worker positions when they open, according to city spokesperson Sean Sedam. Five laborer positions became available, and one remains vacant.

In police, where Milne said in March that five officers left in three weeks, the vacancy reports show three police officer openings in the first quarter of 2015, two of which have been filled, according to Sedam. Another officer position opened since the last report and was filled on June 8.

Sedam said the city does not keep data on where employees go after they leave the city, although it can come up in an exit interview. Anecdotally, he said human-resources officials reported going to government jobs in Howard County, the District of Columbia, Montgomery County and at the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.

But Rockville also gets employees from those jurisdictions as well, according to Sedam.

“It’s important to note that they come here from those places as well. As we said, (it’s a) two-way street,” Sedam said.

He added that people also leave for career changes, retirement, medical leave or other reasons.

“Not everybody is leaving and going to another comparable jurisdiction,” he said. “It kind of runs the gamut.”

Nancy Berkley, a consultant with Evergreen Solutions who conducted the compensation and classification study, surveyed a number of competing jurisdictions.

She developed recommendations that would put the city’s salary structure on average at the 68th percentile in comparison with competing jurisdictions, which would put them toward the higher end of the market they are in.

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Woman and daughter electrocuted

police-tapeA woman and her 4-year-old daughter were electrocuted Saturday outside their flooded basement.

 

The victims were identified Sunday as Crystal Leigh Puderbaugh, age 29, and Lily Elizabeth Puderbaugh of the 8800 block of Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase, according to the Montgomery County Police Department.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled Crystal Puderbaugh died due to a combination of electrocution and drowning. The office ruled that Lily’s death was caused by electrocution. There was no evidence of foul play, police said.

Officer Rick Goodale speculated that they were trying to prevent water from getting into their basement.

Goodale said there is a drain in the stairwell where the victims were found. He said the drain probably got overwhelmed by the flooding.

Goodale speculated that the woman and the girl used the portable sump pump to try to get the standing water out. They would have been standing in the water when the surge of electricity occurred, Piringer said. Water is a natural conductor of electricity, and the human body is as well, Piringer said.

The victims were found unresponsive in the outdoor staircase leading to the basement of the home when first responders arrived, according to the department.

Pete Piringer, spokesman for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Squad, said the victims appeared to be in cardiac arrest and were not breathing or moving. Emergency personnel performed CPR, Piringer said.

Goodale said residents should be cautious about situations involving electrical components that are near standing water. There is no way to tell whether the water is charged or not, Goodale said.

Piringer said the call regarding this incident was one of several flood-related calls received within a short period.

Between 4 and 6 p.m., the squad received calls from people who got trapped when trees fell on their homes, calls for water rescues for people who were stranded in their vehicles due to flooding, and calls reporting trees that brought wires down, Piringer said. Some of the wires were live due to the storm, Piringer said. Several car crashes occurred in that time, some of which were fatal, Piringer said.

 

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16-year-old faces rape charge

ROCKVILLE – Sixteen-year-old Marquiz Turner will go to trial as an adult next month after allegedly raping his ex-girlfriend before her sudden death late on June 12 in front of the Montgomery County Circuit Court.

Police charged Turner as an adult with second-degree rape, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years despite new information that he is a special-education student “of somewhat limited intelligence,” according to Mary Siegfried, a public defender.

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Wootton students die in car crash

Wootton crash students mourning by ConnorNORTH POTOMAC – Two teens died and two were seriously injured in a June 25 car accident involving members of the Wootton High School football team, police said.

 

Emergency personnel pronounced Alexander Murk, 18, of Potomac, and Calvin Jia-Xing Li, 18, of Rockville dead at the scene. They were backseat passengers and were not wearing seatbelts, according to Capt. Thomas Didone.

 

Emergency technicians took the driver, Samuel Joseph Ellis, 18, of North Potomac, to a hospital along with the front-seat passenger. Police said both were wearing seat belts. Didone said as of June 26 the driver and other passenger remained in serious condition.

 

Officer Rick Goodale confirmed July 1 there was no update on the investigation and it would still take a few weeks before the case was handed over to the State’s Attorney’s Office to determine what charges, if any, should be filed.

 

All four teenagers were in the 2006 Acura driving westbound on the 13800 block of Dufief Mill Road shortly before midnight when the car veered off the road, crashed through a fence and hit a tree, said Goodale.

 

Jia-Xing Li played wide receiver for Wootton. Ellis, a senior All-Sentinel Honorable Mention Athlete, started at quarterback for the Patriots and set a state record for passing yards with 557 yards against Rockville in a 58-40 victory on Nov. 1, 2013.

 

Jake Brodsky, a former high school football teammate, said Wootton students were in shock. “Everyone is very shaken up right now,” he said. “They were like family.”

Brodsky said Ellis and Li refereed RFL flag football together. “I’m fairly messed up about it. I just hope Sam’s okay. I don’t even know what to say. They were both great kids with great futures ahead of them.”

 

Police said they believe speeding and drinking may have been factors in the crash because the teens had been at an underage drinking party earlier in the night and cold beer cans were in the car.

 

“Alcohol with teens is just a deadly combination – in this case, literally,” Didone said.

 

Friday morning, friends and students brought flowers and mementos to the crash site. Members of the community also remembered the students with a vigil on Sunday at the crash site and a memorial service at Wootton on Tuesday.

 

Brandy Simms, Connor Glowacki and Bo Evans contributed to this report. 

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