Sher­iff, deputies build trust at com­mu­nity fo­rum

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By AN­DREW RICHARD­SON arichard­son@somd­news.com

Deputies of the Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice, along with Sher­iff Troy Berry (D), at­tended a com­mu­nity fo­rum on Sat- ur­day at the Metropoli­tan United Methodist Church in In­dian Head, field­ing ques­tions, dis­pelling mis- con­cep­tions, and ex­plain- ing po­lice pro­ce­dure to about 40 parish­ioners and com­mu­nity mem­bers to help re­in­force trust and un­der­stand­ing.

Rev. Ge­orge Hackey Jr., a for­mer po­lice of­fi­cer in Mont­gomery County, felt com­pelled to or­ga­nize the event, invit­ing Berry, Sgt. Clarence Black and Cpl. Daniel Baker to speak to the con­gre­ga­tion as pan- elists.

“It’s al­ways been in my heart, be­ing for­mer law en­force­ment for 29 years,” Hackey said, “And with what’s go­ing on in the coun­try, I just felt that we just needed to have something to make sure that peo­ple un­der­stand law en­force­ment, what they re­ally do on a daily ba­sis, what they have to con­tend with, so we can bridge that gap to build more trust.”

At the be­gin­ning of the fo­rum, Hackey stressed how im­por­tance po­lice of- fi­cers are to pub­lic safety, call­ing them the “last line of de­fense.”

“If some­body’s break­ing into your house, what’re you go­ing to do?” he asked. “You’re not go­ing to call ghost­busters.”

Berry ad­dressed the au­di­ence and pointed out that not only does the sher­iff’s of­fice have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to build a

pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship with the cit­i­zens they pro­tect, but the com­mu­nity has to be in­volved as well.

Af­ter open­ing re­marks from Hacky and Berry, the au­di­ence be­gan ask- ing a series of ques­tions and the of­fi­cers re­sponded, often draw­ing from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence.

One of the main top­ics dis­cussed was how to act dur­ing a traf­fic stop, which the of­fi­cers said is one of the most po­ten­tial- ly dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions they en­counter, never quite know­ing what to ex- pect.

When a woman asked if she had the right to dis- pute with an of­fi­cer, the an­swer was yes, but in the court­house.

“I’m not go­ing to hold court on the side of the road,” said Black, who also pointed out the dan­ger of pass­ing ve­hi­cles.

“Com­ply, and com­plain later,” ad­vised Berry, who as­sured them that com- plaints against of­fi­cers are in­ves­ti­gated in­ter­nally by su­per­vi­sors, and ex­plained that the deputies have au­dio record­ing de­vices that turn on when an of­fi­cer turns on their emer­gency lights. Traf­fic stops, he said, are also rou­tinely as­sessed by su­per­vi­sors to make sure of­fi­cers are act­ing ap­pro­pri­ately.

In re­sponse to an­other ques­tion, Berry ex­plained that driv­ing a ve­hi­cle is a priv­i­lege, not a right, and mo­torists are re­quired by law to give of­fi­cers their li­cense and reg­is­tra­tion upon re­quest, even if the of­fi­cer doesn’t ini­tially tell them why they have been pulled over. He ex­plained that some­times there may be an “in­ves­tiga­tive rea­son” for con­firm­ing their iden­tity first, add- ing that there could have been an in­ci­dent, like a bank rob­bery, nearby and that they matched the sus­pect’s de­scrip­tion.

The of­fi­cers also ex- plained that while a per­son can deny their re­quest to search their ve­hi­cle, if they have prob­a­ble cause, they can con­duct the search any­ways. An of­fi­cer de­tect­ing the odor of mar­i­juana, for ex- am­ple, would be prob­a­ble cause for them con­duct a search.

The dis­cus­sion lasted over two hours, and any- one who wanted to ask a ques­tion had the op­por­tu­nity if they wanted to.

“To­day was very im- por­tant to ba­si­cally build a bridge of trust and re­spect be­tween the com- mu­nity and the po­lice of­fi­cers,” said Edith My­ers of Bryans Road, a long­time Charles County res­i­dent. “I at­tended it to meet more of them and en­cour­age oth­ers to come … I think its a good start.”

“I have a lot of re­spect for the of­fi­cers here and have for years. I think the big­gest thing is, be­cause of the me­dia, as they were say­ing, we get all these neg­a­tive re­ports from across the coun­try,” she con­tin­ued. “… I think lots of peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly the ones who are not here, in­ter­nal­ize what they see from other ar­eas and paint a brush on of­fi­cers, that they’re all like that. And we know it’s not true.”

Johnny Ros­set­tos of Bryans Road said he at- tended to help main­tain a pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship be­tween the com­mu­nity and the lo­cal po­lice of­fi­cers.

“Noth­ing can get fixed if it’s not ad­dressed,” Ros­set­tos said. “If you keep ig­nor­ing is­sues and sweep­ing them un­der the rug, you just get a large pile of dirt un­der your rug. Luck­ily in Charles County we haven’t had too many is­sues of this na­ture, but it’s more like pre­ven­tive main­te­nance.”

“It was nice for the po­lice to hear our con­cerns,” he added. “You know, it’s a two way street. So hope­fully did we gain something, hope­fully they gained something they can pass on.”

STAFF PHOTO BY AN­DREW RICHARD­SON

Sher­iff Troy Berry (D) ad­dresses the au­di­ence dur­ing a com­mu­nity fo­rum on Satur­day at the Metropoli­tan United Methodist Church in In­dian Head.

About 40 parish­ioners and com­mu­nity mem­bers at­tended the com­mu­nity fo­rum on Satur­day at Metropoli­tan United Methodist Church in In­dian Head to help build trust and un­der­stand­ing with the Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice.

Cpl. Daniel Baker tells the au­di­ence about some of the ex­pe­ri­ences he’s had as an of­fi­cer.

Bryans Road res­i­dent Edith My­ers asks one of the of­fi­cers a ques­tion dur­ing the com­mu­nity fo­rum.

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