Calvert Commissioners OK Funds for License Plate Readers

The Calvert County Commissioners Tuesday approved a Sheriff’s Office request for over $215,000 for the purchase of two license plate readers (LPRs). The money is coming from the county government’s Safety Camera Revenue Account.

The Bay Net reports,

The Safety Camera Revenue Account, a component of the Safety for Students Act, is funded by money realized from fines levied against drivers who exceed the speed limit in school zones where the cameras are set up. Another portion of the account is being used to purchase body cameras for several deputies. That allocation is within the fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget, which takes effect July 1.

The request for the purchase of two LPRs was made last month by Sheriff Mike Evans [R]. “The LPRs will effectively capture license plate information of all vehicles entering and exiting via routes 260 and 4, which is important because a majority of bank robberies and armed robberies of businesses have historically occurred in Northern Calvert County,” Assistant Sheriff Lt. Colonel Dave McDowell stated in a memo to the commissioners. “This is part of the sheriff’s plan to use the Safety for Students program revenue source to purchase one-time, high priority expenditures for equipment and other operational needs.”

No member of the public spoke at the public hearing, however, a few of the commissioners had plenty to say prior to a final vote. Despite assurances from McDowell and Evans that data recorded by the LPRs was not to be used for nefarious purposes, Commissioner Pat Nutter [R – District 2] indicated he was opposed to the plan. “I don’t want to end up in ‘big brother’ syndrome—that’s where America is headed,” said Nutter, a retire sheriff’s deputy.

Evans stated that the county already has LPRs and “they have been a great tool.” The sheriff declared have the LPRs in place at the county’s north border would help address a serious public safety issue. “We are only looking for people who are breaking the law,” said Evans.

Commissioners’ Vice President Evan K. Slaughenhoupt Jr. [R – District 3] stated that the LPRs were “the electronic version” of human eyewitnesses.

“Most people move here for the quality of life,” said Commissioner Mike Hart [R – District 1], adding that public safety contributed to the quality. “I would like to expand it [LPR program]. This is going to give police so many more pairs of eyes.

Still, Nutter argued that have motor vehicle license plates observed and recorded was compromising an individual’s privacy. “There’s no privacy, Pat. It’s just a part of life,” said Commissioners’ President Tom Hejl [R – At large], who is also a law enforcement veteran.

Sensing there might not be an end to the discussion, Hejl called for a vote. The board voted 4-to-1, with Nutter opposed, to closing the public record and approving the budget resolution.

Read the full article for more information.

St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office Recognized for Role in Schools

Last week, St. Mary’s County Public Schools expressed their appreciation for the support of law enforcement at their schools and on their safety teams. During a ceremony, school officials recognized Safety and Security Assistants, Maryland State Police, and deputies from the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office for their public safety efforts in the public school system.

Southern Maryland News Net reports,

Principals who submitted nominations, commanders and members of the school board, along with Superintendent James Scott Smith and Safety & Security Director, Mike Wyant, bestowed the awards.

“For every day of this school year, there has been at least one unsung hero,” Wyant said. “Law enforcement officers have helped make a difference in a child’s life, and the partnerships we continue to forge provide confidence in our systems.”
Following an opening by Smith, Sheriff Cameron said, “Our partnerships create a great synergy, and we have a positive relationship that exists today.”

The following officer from the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office was nominated for Adopt-A-School Officer of the Year: Timothy Snyder, Lexington Park Elementary and George Washington Carver Elementary School.

“Deputy Snyder grew up in Lexington Park and finds his life experiences a benefit in supporting the children in the community regardless of their age,” Dr. Rebecaa Schou, Principal of Lexington Park Elementary said. “Deputy Snyder also finds time to support his community as a member of the Lexington Park Volunteer Rescue Squad, providing care and comfort to families who are experiencing a medical emergency.”

“The Carver team wishes to express our utmost gratitude for the hard work Deputy Timothy Snyder has displayed in safeguarding the school, staff, and students,” Principal Deanna Mingo of George Washington Carver Elementary School said. “He has shown to the Carver community the highest professionalism in every interaction. Deputy Snyder’s concerted effort exceeds expectations.”

The following officers from the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office were nominated for School Resource Officers of the Year: Corporal Andrew Holton, Chopticon High School; Corporal Kristi Nelson, Great Mills High School; and Corporal Gray Maloy, Leonardtown High School.

Selected for School Resource Officer of the Year was Corporal Andy Holton, Chopticon High School and Margaret Brent Middle School. “Holton is always on time, always on duty, and always interacts with students with nothing but respect and support,” Mark Priner of Chopticon High School said. “Every interaction I have with him is marked by professionalism, respect and a steady focus on the task of ensuring that Chopticon is run as safely as possible.”

“He is firm, consistent, and holds students to high expectations,” Principal Janet Fowler of Margaret Brent Middle School said. “However, he also provides a safe outlet for students to confide in him. He models appropriate behavior for our young men and women, and his positive impact reaches beyond the walls of our building into our community.”

Sheriff Cameron, along with the men and women of the sheriff’s office, extend congratulations to every individual who was nominated and received an award. The Sheriff’s Office also thanks the board of education, Superintendent Smith, St. Mary’s County Public School staff, and the principals of our local schools for honoring the nominees and winners.

Read the full article for more information.

Anne Arundel Budget Funds Education and Public Safety

The budget will fund renovations at three elementary schools, including Richard Henry Lee Elementary (pictured).

As reported by the Capital Gazette,

The Anne Arundel County Council on Wednesday passed a final version of the fiscal year 2018 budget, a $1.5 billion spending plan that funds a salary step for teachers, 40 new public safety officers and a boost to renovation projects at three aging elementary schools, among other items.

For more, see County Council approves budget for fiscal year 2018 from the Capital Gazette and see the Anne Arundel County Budget Office.

D.C. Takes Another Step Towards Modernizing 9-1-1

Sometimes calling 9-1-1 may not be the best way to report an emergency. In certain situations, the ability to text your emergency message could mean the difference between life and death.

Today, Washington, D.C. took a major step toward modernizing its 9-1-1 system when Mayor Bowser launched Text to 9-1-1, a new service that allows residents to request emergency services through texting.

According to a press release,

Today, Mayor Bowser launched Text to 9-1-1 in Washington, DC, a new service that allows residents to request emergency services through texting. Text to 9-1-1 is intended to improve accessibility for residents who are unable to call 9-1-1, and the Administration is emphasizing that residents should continue to call 9-1-1 when possible. The Mayor was joined at the launch by the Director of the Office of Unified Communications (OUC) Karima Holmes and Fire and Emergency Medical Services (FEMS) Chief Gregory Dean.

“Text to 9-1-1 gives people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or who have a speech disability as well as those who could be put in more danger by calling 9-1-1 an immediate connection to emergency services,” said Mayor Bowser. “Text to 9-1-1 is the latest example of how we are using every resource possible to make Washington, DC safer and stronger for all residents.”

Text to 9-1-1 requires a smartphone that is capable of sending text messages and has Location Services enabled. Text messages must be brief, easily understood, and in plain English (no abbreviations, shortcuts, or slang).

Text to 9-1-1 is a component of Next Generation 911 (NG911), the initiative aimed at updating the 9-1-1 system across the United States. NG911 issues are of top concern for county governments seeking to improve and enhance their handling of 9-1-1 calls from cell phone users with technology that will increase response times, location accuracy, and allow text, photo, and video data to be shared by callers to First Responders on their way to the emergency.

While the technology to implement NG911 is available now, there are many issues that local governments must work through relating to technology standards, the process of transition, governance, and funding. During the 2017 Legislative Session, MACo supported Senate Bill 466, “Carl Henn’s Law,” a bill to streamline the transition to NG911 in Maryland. MACo worked with bill sponsor, Senator Kagan over the interim on ideas for the legislation and was pleased to have her support on several amendments to the bill.

As amended, the legislation expands the uses of a state funding mechanism for 9-1-1 upgrades and creates an advisory board that includes local 911 Center representation to help implement the next generation technologies throughout the State. SB 466, “Carl Henn’s Law,” passed the Senate but did not move in the House.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: “Carl Henn’s Law” to Advance 9-1-1 Heard in Senate

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Counties Left in the Dark When 9-1-1 Fails

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Next Steps on Next Generation 9-1-1

Federal Funding for Opioid Abuse Treatment Caught in Healthcare Debate

As reported by The Hill,

Senate Republicans are considering adding funding for opioid abuse treatment to their ObamaCare repeal bill, according to senators and aides.

The move would be meant to ease concerns about the effect on opioid addiction treatment from rolling back ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid, which currently plays a major role in providing coverage for that treatment.

For more information, see Senate GOP considers adding opioid funding to ObamaCare repeal bill.

Secretary Moyer Selected to Lead Regional Drug Trafficking Program

Governor Larry Hogan today announced that Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Stephen T. Moyer was selected as vice-chairman of the Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). This federal program, administered by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, is designed to provide resources for federal, state, and local entities to aid in combating drug trafficking by supporting and collaborating with the region’s law enforcement, treatment, and prevention partners.

According to a press release,

“Heroin and opioid addiction is tearing families and communities apart at the seams all across our state, our region, and our nation. We need to bring all hands on deck to combat this epidemic and bring those who seek to destroy our communities to justice,” said Governor Hogan. “Steve Moyer is a demonstrated leader and I have every confidence his experience will be a tremendous asset in fighting drug trafficking in our region.”

Secretary Moyer will serve as vice-chairman for HIDTA, in addition to his leadership role at Public Safety, and he will become the chairman of HIDTA in June 2018.  As secretary, he manages an agency with over 10,000 employees and $1.4 billion budget that includes the Divisions of Corrections, Parole and Probation, and Pre-Trial Release Services. Previously, Secretary Moyer served for 24 years as a Maryland State Trooper, achieving the rank of Lt. Colonel.

Secretary Moyer’s selection comes as the region confronts an evolving opioid crisis, which has escalated with the introduction of the deadly additive fentanyl. In March, Governor Hogan declared a State of Emergency to address the drug scourge, committing $50 million in funding over the next five years for law enforcement, prevention, and treatment services.

Read the full press release for more information.

Baltimore County Council Tables Immigration Bill

The Baltimore County Council has tabled a controversial measure that would require the Baltimore County Detention Center to screen for illegal immigrants, but the measure’s chief sponsor vowed to try again.

The Baltimore Sun reports,

The council voted 5-2 on Monday to table the measure, which would have required the county jail in Towson to join a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement program known as 287(g) that trains and deputizes county correctional officers to carry out certain immigration enforcement. The bill would have placed the program among official duties of the county’s Department of Corrections.

The council action kills the bill, because county bills expire after 45 days, and the council will not meet again before this bill expires.

Republican Councilman David Marks — who had been a co-sponsor of the measure — joined the council’s four Democrats in voting to table the bill.

Marks said he grew to have some reservations about the bill. He drafted amendments that would have made participation in the program a pilot for a limited amount of time, limited it to only screening convicted felons and required an audit.

Councilman Todd Crandell, the bill’s chief sponsor, said he plans to reintroduce a version of the bill after spending the summer further educating council members about it.

“Absolutely, we’re going to bring it back,” the Dundalk Republican said. “It’s just in what form.”

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who had promised to veto the bill if it had passed, issued a statement welcoming the move to table it.

The bill drew an unusually intense amount of interest to the Baltimore County Council, with dozens of people on both sides testifying during a public hearing last week. Groups both opposed and supportive of the bill launched petition drives.

Read the full article for more information.

Notes of Hope In the Fight Against Opioids

The opioid epidemic continues to grow and county governments across the country grapple with what is now the number-one cause of accidental death in the United States, surpassing traffic fatalities, as described by the National Association of Counties Executive Director, Matt Chase. [Comcast Newsmakers]

The total number of drug and alcohol-related intoxication deaths in Maryland increased by more than 62% for the first three-quarters of 2016 as compared to all of 2015. [Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene]

It’s a situation that is being taken seriously at the State level, where in Maryland, the Governor has declared a state of emergency and announced special funding to fight the opioid epidemic [Conduit Street/Washington Post]

During the legislative session, the General Assembly passed a law requiring local boards of education, in collaboration with the local health departments, to hire a community action official to coordinate school-based community forums on opioid addiction. [MACo Testimony on the “Start Talking Maryland Act”]

And, just last month, the Hogan Administration launched “Before It’s Too Late,” a new web portal designed to provide resources and raise public awareness of the rapid escalation of the heroin, opioid, and fentanyl crisis in Maryland. [Conduit Street/Governor’s Office]

But it is at the local level that the opioid epidemic must be fought. For starters, of the approximate 8.5 million individuals in county jails nationwide, about 60% of them have substance abuse problems, describes Matt Chase of the National Association of Counties. [Comcast Newsmakers]

The good news is that in Maryland’s counties and Baltimore City, programs battling the front lines of the crisis are making a difference.

In Anne Arundel County’s Safe Station’s program, every county police and fire station has opened its doors 24-7 to walk-ins seeking help for drug addiction. The program reached its capacity within two weeks of its start and is connecting entrants the county’s detoxification services and putting them in touch with the Crisis Response Team. [Capital Gazette]

The Baltimore City Health Department Staying Alive Program has taught more than 17,500 drug users, drug treatment clients and providers, inmates, and corrections officers about how to prevent drug overdoses. More than 230 reversals (lives saved) have been documented. [Baltimore City Health Department]. Just this week, Baltimore officials made it easier to acquire  the overdose-reversing drug Nalaxone over the counter, saying the antidote should be as prevalent as possible to prevent more deaths. [The Washington Times]

In  Carroll, Calvert, Cecil, Frederick, Howard, Anne Arundel, Washington, and Montgomery counties, those held in detention centers may be offered Vivitrol, a drug to block addiction, prior to being released. The programs seeks to reduce recidivism. [Carroll County Times] Cecil County’s Detention Center’s program has served several dozen inmates who are looking to continue in sobriety after release. [Cecil Daily]

In Washington County, a day-reporting center provides an alternative to incarceration for non-violent offenders who have substance abuse disorders. The program blends a high level of community supervision with intensive case management and addiction treatment. Participants undergo random alcohol and drug testing, and are provided with job training, financial education, and social supports. The center has showed early success, even finding one participant a job within 29 days of starting the program.  [ County Sheriff’s Office]

But despite the good news, the fight is (very, very) far from over. Stay tuned for Conduit Street for updates and be in touch with your county stories.

Carroll Police Seek Better Protections Against Strong Opioids

The Carroll County’s local law enforcement agencies are partnering with the county’s department of public safety to equip officers with better masks and gloves as they increasingly face extremely potent opioids, such as carfentanil and fentanyl, when responding to overdose calls.

The Carroll County Times reports:

Deputies with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office already have heavy-duty gas masks that they use in riot situations, Sheriff Jim DeWees said. But the masks are bulky and hard to put on while trying to respond to a call, he said.

Instead, the deputies and other law enforcement will be equipped with N95 masks.

The Department of Public Safety is working to make sure every sworn officer in the county is given the appropriate protection, said Doug Brown, emergency management coordinator.

The N95 masks are smaller face protection that have a better filtering system than a typical dust mask a person might use when doing construction in their home.

“You have to breathe a little harder to get air through the N95 mask because the filtering is better,” Brown said.

Fire companies are already equipped with the masks and the proper equipment, Brown said.

Read The Carroll County Times to learn more.

Laguna Beach Cries ‘Self Defense’ With Drone Ban

Drone operators in Laguna Beach will no longer be allowed to fly their remote-controlled aircraft over city parks near beaches or over city government buildings, beginning July 13.

The Orange County Register reports,

Laguna Beach City Council members on Tuesday, May 23, unanimously approved an ordinance that they say strikes a balance between the rights of drone operators and the rights of the community to privacy and safety.

The ordinance prohibits the operation of a drone in a way that harasses or intimidates people whether they are on public or private property.

They also cannot be flown over City Hall, the lifeguard headquarters or over the police or fire department stations. They can also not hover over the city’s maintenance yard.

Drones are forbidden to interfere with emergency responders or impede a parade or motorcade, the ordinance states. Real estate agents and media photographers will be required to get permits before they can fly them, according to the ordinance.

“The ordinance allows for safe and responsible usage of drones within the city boundaries in most areas but prohibits drone usage in areas where risk to the public is greatest,” Laguna Beach Police Chief Laura Farinella said, adding she has received many complaints in the past three years. Some have come in on 911 calls.

Resident Brad Allen told the council that drones hover near his house, which is close to Victoria Beach, daily.

“When I bought the house, it had privacy unless there was a helicopter hovering nearby,” he said. “I have an outdoor shower and drones hover close by. I’ve opened the curtains to my bedroom and there’s a drone 20 feet away. I think we are taking the right steps, I don’t know where this will go in the future.”

Drone-flying is still allowed over private property and over the ocean, but harassment of marine wildlife will not be tolerated, Farinella said.

Councilman Rob Zur Schmiede suggested the council revisit whether a person could disarm a drone that came within 20 feet of them.

“I agree; it’s self-defense,” said Councilman Steve Dicterow.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires that commercial operators obtain a pilot’s license and keep the drones in their sightlines. Drones are allowed to fly no higher than 400 feet off the ground during daylight hours.

Legislation enacted in 2015 made Maryland one of only three states to grant the state government exclusive power to regulate drone usage, preempting municipalities and counties from enacting their own ordinances. MACo opposed this legislation as a preemption of county authority and was able to secure an amendment to assess the need for new laws or local tools after three years of industry maturation.

MACo, along with the Maryland State Police, are among the stakeholders charged with evaluating any safety or security problems arising from drone use as the industry expands in the years ahead. The stakeholder group will report its findings to the governor in 2018.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Appeals Court Strikes Down Drone Regulation Law

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Drones Must be Registered Under New Federal Rule

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: General Assembly Passes Drone Bill With Study Amendment

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: To Detect, Deter, & Stop Unsafe Drone Use