Sheriff attends White House meeting
Gives input on president’s policing report
— As Cecil County’s top law enforcement officer, Sheriff Scott Adams is used to contributing his input on a variety of statewide matters but his experience last week was a first: contributing to the nationwide discussion on policing during a visit to the White House.
Adams was one of about 23 local law enforcement leaders from around the country who traveled to the nation’s capital Thursday to speak during a followup implementation briefing with the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
The task force was formed by President Barack Obama in the wake of recent policeinvolved shootings that have roiled communities across the country over the past several years. Its goal was to examine policies and procedures of law enforcement agencies, talk with law enforcement officials, technical advisors, youth and community leaders and nongovernmental organizations, and
recommend changes that could help improve relationships with the public.
The final report, issued in May 2015, suggested six topics for departments of all sizes to review and look to improve upon. This summer, after a year to implement some of the 40 suggestions, the task force began convening eight roundtable briefings with local law enforcement leaders to get their take on the recommendations’ effectiveness.
So how did Adams get included in the meeting? He’s still not quite sure.
“I think it came out of a recent HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) symposium in Towson, where Michael Botticelli, the White House’s drug czar, was in attendance,” Adams said Tuesday. “I sat at a table with him and talked with him a bit, and we later shared some emails. So I’m sure the invitation came from that connection somehow.”
Soon after that symposium, Adams said he began to receive emails from the White House’s scheduling department, which invited him to a few of the task force briefings.
“I was a little surprised and skeptical at first,” he said with a laugh. “I followed up with some phone calls and emails to make sure it was real. Eventually we got a date that worked and I accepted the invitation.”
Traveling to the White House on Thursday morning, Adams received a tour of the building and talked with some of the Secret Service agents on duty before being ushered into the meeting.
“It was a neat perspective to talk with some of the uniformed and non-uniformed agents in the White House,” he said. “It was interesting that some of the uniformed guys at the White House hadn’t ever heard of the 21st Century Policing report though.”
In the meeting, Adams said police chiefs from California, Pennsylvania, Florida, Maryland and Delaware met with Elias Alcantara, associate director of White House Intergovernmental Affairs; Broderick Johnson, assistant to the president and cabinet secretary; and Ron Davis, director of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office). Joining Adams from Maryland was Salisbury Police Chief Barbara Duncan.
Adams said he addressed how he has implemented some of the report’s suggestions in the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office as well as how Maryland as a whole is advancing.
For instance, recently passed legislation will turn the Maryland Police Training Commission into the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission starting on Oct. 1.
“They will be tasked with developing overarching standards for all agencies statewide,” he said. “That will address other concerns such as posting policies and procedures on the MPTSC website along with complaint forms. In fact, a lot of the things recommended in this report are things Maryland is already moving forward with. I think we’re on the forefront side of that.”
In his agency, Adams said he carries the belief that policy issues fall into one of three categories: you don’t have them, you have them but they’re not up to date, or you have them and they’re current, but they’re not followed.
Adams said he doesn’t believe there are any issues with his deputies following the agency’s policies Sheriff Scott Adams was one of several law enforcement leaders invited to the White House last week for a task force meeting.
and procedures, but a Policy Review Committee has been working on reviewing every word of the office’s policy book in search of updates that would make it more current to law enforcement’s modernizing challenges. Changes are being made piecemeal as they are identified and the committee meets each week on updates. Adams noted that CCSO is reviewing national and international policy guidelines as well, but writing its own to best fit the special duties with which a sheriff’s office is tasked, such as warrant serving and court protection.
“A lot of our policies and procedures are still good, but we’re looking at ones that are more in the spotlight today, such as use of force and officer complaint procedures,” he said. “It’s a major process that we’re in the midst of now.”
Adams also told the task force about the advancements that his agency has made with technology and social media as a way to help foster improved relations. CCSO routinely uses Facebook and Twitter to reach readers and respond to residents’ concerns, and has even hosted a virtual town hall with Adams as a way to reach the top official directly.
“You have to have those relationships, because you can’t just put information out as it’s just as important to get information from the community. It’s critical,” he said. “You have to keep your thumb on the pulse of what’s happening, otherwise you’re falling behind. And in today’s world with law enforcement changing by the second almost, you really have to understand the dynamics of your community. If you’re not getting information from the community then you’re really doing a disservice to your agency and the community.”
In hearing from the other participating agencies, Adams said he was interested to hear of an officer wellness program from a Californian counterpart who allowed workout hours while on duty. Like some of the other similar-sized agencies, however, Adams said some of the proposals would be hamstrung by CCSO’s comparatively smaller budget.
“One of the things we heard was that, unfortunately, some of the report’s suggestions wouldn’t be possible due to budgets,” he said. “It’s almost like an unfunded mandate.”
Overall, Adams said he and many of his colleagues present Thursday agreed that the report’s six pillars are a strong starting place for effective improvements, but the individual recommendations may not all be realistically possible.
“Some of these suggestions are really good, but others, quite frankly, are not,” he said. “You can tell that some of these recommendations are not coming from a police perspective, and therefore aren’t very realistic in my mind.”
Adams said he wasn’t surprised that the White House was seeking input from local leaders on their policing recommendations, but was glad to see so many participating.
“It’s refreshing to hear that they did this report and then they’re seeking realtime feedback from chiefs in person,” he said. “All in all, it was a pretty neat experience to be a part of.”
A stolen SUV crashed in Elkton on Monday night as it was being pursued by police, bursting into flames.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with rank-andfile law enforcement officials from across the country in the Oval Office on Feb. 24, 2015.