DEPUTIES  AND  ALCOHOL

As a 2022 Sheriff’s candidate, a significant number of the voting public has approached me seeking comment on the recent allegations of deputies drinking and driving.  After giving this some serious thought, I decided no one should be left in the silence maintained by the current administration. My comments below will not mention the names of the accused. None of the cases have been adjudicated as of this writing, so they are considered innocent until proven otherwise.

That said, let me first recap: In October 2019, an off-duty deputy was allegedly under the influence of alcohol when said deputy crashed into a pedestrian on the side of Dares Beach Road, resulted in a tragic loss of life.

Then, just a few weeks ago, a Calvert deputy was captured on video arguing with a female who was seemingly trying to stop the deputy from driving while intoxicated. The video received a significant amount of negative publicity on social media and YouTube.

The most recent event occurred Friday, January 7. Again, an off-duty deputy was involved in a personal injury accident while operating an agency vehicle. Investigators are looking into whether alcohol was a possible cause.

Here’s my take:  Alcoholism is a serious disease/addiction. When left untreated, it often can have life altering consequences, as indicated in two of the three allegations listed above.  Also, alcohol addiction does not discriminate.  It affects every race, every sex, every career path and yes, it even affects law enforcement.

It doesn't take but a few minutes of reading the public comments involving any one of these incidents to realize that the citizens of Calvert County feel a sense of betrayal. But it also stings each and every deputy, perhaps even more. They swear to and sign an “Oath of Affirmation” to bear true faith and allegiance to the United States of America and to the State of Maryland and to serve honestly and faithfully.

When I become Sheriff. I will implement a two-step program to prevent and deter future indiscretions by those who are entrusted to protect and serve:

Step No.1: I will emphasize to my staff the consequences for violating any of our state laws. I'll discourage such behavior by making them fully aware that such actions will not be swept under the rug or dismissed without consequences.
I also will institute a cultural change within the Calvert County Sheriff's Office. I will encourage individuals with drinking disorders to come forward and seek help. Seeking help will no longer be viewed as a sign of weakness but rather as a sign of strength, as it should be.
And I will educate my commanders, supervisors and deputies on the early warning signs of drinking disorders so they can intervene and seek help at the first indication of abuse.

Step No. 2: It all begins in the recruiting and hiring process. Recruiting, hiring and retaining the best law enforcement officers is critical for a safe, thriving community. A diverse and inclusive agency workforce that reflects the community leads to increased trust. Therefore, it's critical to find the right people during the hiring process. We can no longer conduct lackadaisical background investigations.  Currently, backgrounds are conducted in 90 days or less. That will change under my leadership.

Investigators will be mandated to knock on the doors of an applicant's neighbors; not just the neighbors who are listed as references, but those neighbors who are not on the reference list.  Investigators will make in-person visits to former employers and review social media accounts. In short, the time to dig into an applicant's worthiness of becoming a law enforcement officer is in the pre-employment phase. We need to dig into one's character, decision making abilities and social activities, and devote more time to do it and do it right. Under my leadership, the hiring process will become a complete and thorough investigation into an applicant's background and capabilities to perform the functions of this admirable profession in accordance with the oath they swear to.

My final thought: The trust of those who elect any Sheriff is invaluable. When I am elected, I vow to work to maintain that trust every day I’m in office. Furthermore, I make the solemn promise that if major incidents such as these occur on my watch, I will request the Maryland State Police to step in to handle the investigation.

Having worked for the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office for more than 30 years, I know from first-hand experience that we have highly qualified investigators who are fully capable of looking into critical and major incidents. But the perception of investigating your own agency does not sit well with the public and is often perceived as a cover up, even when that’s not the case. So, to avoid even the hint of such a suggestion, I will go outside for a look inside.