Sheriff, deputies build trust at community forum
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.”
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.