Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services: A Collaborative Approach At #MACoCon

All of Maryland’s twenty-four jurisdictions depend on some level of volunteers for the delivery of fire and rescue service. The evolution of volunteer fire companies presents both challenges and opportunities for county governments.  At this year’s annual MACo Winter Conference, learn how Maryland counties are collaborating with volunteer fire companies to protect lives, property, and the environment.

Together We Respond: A Collaborative Approach to Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services

Description: All of Maryland’s twenty-four jurisdictions depend on some level of volunteers for the delivery of fire and rescue service. As volunteer fire companies continue to evolve, it is critical for local governments to strengthen their relationships with local volunteer firefighters. This session will provide an overview of the challenges and best practices related to the volunteer fire service in Maryland. Speakers will discuss challenges in oversight and authority, recruiting and retaining volunteers, and funding for both volunteer companies and county governments.

Speakers:

  • Richard Devore, Director of Emergency Services, Allegany County
  • Tom Owens, EFO, Director/Chief, Division of Frederick County Fire & Rescue Services
  • Michael Faust, Second Vice President, Maryland State Fireman’s Association
  • Clarence “Chip” Jewell, Director/Deputy Chief, Frederick County Division of Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services

Date/Time: Thursday, December 7, 2017; 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm

The MACo Winter Conference will be held December 6-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. This year the conference’s theme is “The Power of Partnership.”

Learn more about MACo’s 2017 Winter Conference:

Baltimore County Names Gail Watts as Director of Corrections

The Baltimore County Council has confirmed Gail Watts to serve as the new director of the county’s Department of Corrections.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

Members of the Baltimore County Council were full of praise as they confirmed Gail Watts as the county’s new director of corrections.

The council voted 6-0 on Monday to support Watts’ promotion to the top job, replacing Deborah Richardson, who retired.

Gail Watts, Director, Baltimore County Department of Corrections (photo courtesy of Baltimore County Government)
Gail Watts, Director, Baltimore County Department of Corrections (photo courtesy of Baltimore County Government)

As reported in the article, Watts was nominated by County Executive Kamenetz to serve as director following the retirement of her predecessor Deborah Richardson. According to a county press release:

“Gail Watts is a natural leader who balances strong operational discipline with a compassionate people-centered approach that inspires her staff to excel, while at the same time ensuring that the people incarcerated at our detention center have the opportunity to turn their lives around through education, mental health and substance abuse treatment and vocational training,” Kamenetz said. He noted that when Watts was named BCDC employee of the year in 2008, the vote among all department staff was unanimous.

Watts is responsible for overseeing the daily operations of the County Detention Center, including programs, security, building operations, budget and finance, staff training and support service contracts. She oversaw the Department’s transition to direct supervision and was instrumental in overhauling the facility’s mental health unit. She started in the Department in September 1990 as a Correctional Officer and served in various positions of increasing responsibility in which she managed work release and home detention programs, staff training, inmate employment, staffing and policy analysis, staff disciplinary procedures, regulatory compliance, and more.

For more information:

Baltimore County Council confirms new corrections director (The Baltimore Sun)

Kamenetz Nominates Gail Watts Director of Baltimore County Department of Corrections (Baltimore County Government)

Baltimore Sun Editorial Challenges Needs for Body Camera Privacy Legislation

A Baltimore Sun article (2017-10-09) reported that two Baltimore County Council Members, Todd Crandell and Wade Kach, have introduced a resolution urging the Maryland General Assembly to consider a statewide policy to clarify when the public should have police body camera video footage under the Maryland Public Information Act (PIA). The resolution calls for protecting individual privacy rights while maintaining law enforcement transparency. As previously reported on Conduit Street, the County recently announced the adoption of body cameras for 1,400 of its police officers. The resolution proposal follows that announcement.

The article noted that State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger planned to testify in support of the resolution while the ACLU of Maryland opposed the measure. From the article:

“This is simply about a layer of protection for innocent victims and bystanders for their privacy,” said Councilman Todd Crandell of Dundalk, who is sponsoring the measure with Councilman Wade Kach of Cockeysville. …

American Civil Liberties Union attorney David Rocah called the resolution “unnecessary and deeply misguided.” …

Crandell said the resolution was inspired not by any specific incident, but by a constituent concern about privacy. The concern, he said, is that police are often called to people’s homes, and “anybody who wants to request that footage can then see inside of your home.”

A Baltimore Sun editorial (2017-10-09) followed up on the article expressing the Sun’s opposition to the resolution and statewide legislation. While the Sun acknowledged the various concerns raised by stakeholders, the Sun argued that such legislation was “hypothetical” and unnecessary:

Proponents of new limits on the public release of police body camera video come at the issue from a variety of perspectives. Some are concerned that video showing victims of alleged domestic or sexual assault could become public, thus leading to stigmatization of those who are already vulnerable. Others worry that videos could show embarrassing or private details of one’s home — footage of dirty dishes in the sink, or a homeowner’s collection of firearms, as some legislators mused during hearings on the topic this year. And representatives of local governments in particular are worried that they will be slammed with overly broad requests for video that will prove expensive and time consuming. …

Useful Links

Conduit Street Article on Baltimore County Body Camera Adoption

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Body Cameras

State Funding Cut Threatens Baltimore Criminal Justice Council

In a letter sent to Baltimore City’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council members, Chairman and Baltimore Circuit Judge Charles J. Peters, informed them that the council could be forced to shut down due to state funding cuts. The Baltimore Sun reports:

“The abrupt cessation of funding requires the members of the Council to consider the future status of the CJCC and its operations,” Peters wrote. “Unless any source of funding is apparent, the Council must consider whether its current operations can continue.”

The article explains that Governor Hogan announced he was cutting funding for the council because he did not believe they were “taking violent crime seriously. Hogan would instead redirect the funding to the Mayor’s office for administration. The Chairman disputes that addressing violent crime is part of the charge for the council which was formed in 1999 to coordinate efforts and confront systematic issues among the City’s criminal justice entities.

Read The Baltimore Sun to learn more.

Related coverage from Conduit Street:

Gov. Hogan Terminates Funding for Baltimore Crime Panel

Hogan, City Officials to Discuss Crime in Closed Door Meeting

Washington County Tackles Sex Trafficking with New Task Force

According to the Maryland Department of Services (formerly the Department of Human Resources), Washington County ranks fourth in the state in terms of suspected juvenile sex-trafficking victims. As a result, the county brought together a comprehensive team of government and community entities to form the Washington County Human Trafficking Task Force to help combat the issue.

Citing technology and location, Steven Youngblood, child welfare program manager for Washington County, explains in The Herald-Mail why the county has become a “hot bed” for sex trafficking:

“It’s fair to say that it’s increasing because of the information super highway — the internet — and all the social media sites,” Youngblood said of sex trafficking. “It’s a lot easier for (the perpetrators) to stay out of sight.”

Interstates 70 and 81 criss-cross the county. There are five major truck stops and multiple hotels, plus the county borders two other states. It’s within an hour of three international airports. There is a high population of runaways and the county has a growing heroin epidemic.

The article continues to explain to role the task force members will play in aggressively tackling this issue. It is also reported in the article that between June 2013 and August 2017, there were 44 juvenile sex trafficking in the county with 37 of those being from the county. Statewide, between 2012 and 2016, 201 of the 601 reported sex-trafficking victims were juveniles.

For more information read the full article in The Herald-Mail.

Carroll County Transfers Funds to Ease Jail Overcrowding

In an effort to alleviate overcrowding concerns at the county detention center, the Board of Carroll County Commissioners unanimously approved the transfer of contingency funds to house inmates at neighboring county facilities.

As reported in The Carroll County Times:

The funding provides housing for an average of eight inmates for up to 180 days or through the end of the second quarter of the fiscal year, according to meeting documents.

The funds would only be used for off-site secure housing if the number of inmates exceeds the design capacity and/or on a case-by-case basis if inmates require special housing, according to the documents. If additional housing is not needed the funds would not be used.

The capacity for the Carroll County Detention is 185 inmates, however the current population is close to 200 inmates. The article explains that the funding would help house inmates primarily at the Allegany County Detention Center and possibly at Harford or Howard County detention centers. The inmates may be sent to these facilities due to overcrowding, or if it is necessary to separate an inmate from others at the Carroll facility.

Warden George Hardinger states in the article that the county is continuing to explore their issue of overcrowding and looking into long-term solutions such as day reporting.

Read The Carroll County Times to learn more.

Sustainable Maryland Offering Community Resiliency Workshops

Sustainable Maryland is offering a series of leadership training seminars on building community resiliency throughout Maryland in partnership with the Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland. MACo and the Maryland Municipal League are co-sponsoring the events.

From a Sustainable Maryland announcement email:

The Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland will host Sustainable Maryland’s annual Leadership Training workshops in November. This training series fosters leadership skills to engage diverse stakeholders, reduce contention, and garner support for sustainability initiatives.

This year’s workshop topic, BUILDING COMMUNITY RESILIENCE, will incorporate examples, stories and tools that will help communities: define resilience; foster strategies to develop resilience actions; and improve participants’ ability to communicate the importance of resilience to residents.

The training is being held at three different locations and dates:

There is a $35 registration fee that includes breakfast, lunch, and program materials. Parking at each event is free.

AGENDA

Contact Mike Hunninghake at mikeh75@umd.edu or 301-405-7956 if you have any questions.

Useful Links

Sustainable Maryland Website

Environmental Finance Center Website

Baltimore County Equips 1,400 Officers With Body Cameras

Baltimore County has trained and equipped 1,400 police officers with body cameras — one year ahead of the original schedule.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

Since the first officers started wearing cameras, the county has handled more than 250,000 recordings covering 45,000 hours of video footage.

The first five years of the program is expected to cost $7.1 million, including $1.25 million for the Axon Flex cameras and equipment and another $5.9 million for maintenance and storage.

Supreme Court Declines Maryland Marijuana Stop & Frisk Appeal

A Daily Record article (2017-10-02) reported that the United States Supreme Court declined to review a Maryland Court of Appeals holding that simply smelling unsmoked marijuana in a vehicle does not allow police officers to frisk a passenger for weapons. In Joseph Norman Jr. v. State of Maryland (March 27, 2017), the Court of Appeals found that in order to conduct a weapons frisk, a police officer must have “reasonable articulable suspicion” that a passenger may be armed and dangerous. This suspicion is based on the “totality of the circumstances” and must include more than smelling marijuana in a car. In declining to hear Maryland’s appeal, the Supreme Court essentially upheld the Court of Appeals holding and dismissed the argument of Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh. From the article:

“By withholding authority to frisk the occupants of a car that an officer already has probable cause to search, and by retreating from the widely recognized association of drugs and guns particularly in the circumstances of drug trafficking or transport on the nation’s roads, the decision below makes constitutionally unreasonable the educated instincts that keep traffic officers alive,” Frosh wrote in Maryland’s petition for review. “This should not be.” …

In a responsive filing, Maryland Public Defender Paul B. DeWolfe countered that the Maryland court’s decision did not merit the justices’ review as it correctly interpreted the Fourth Amendment.

“As an initial matter, the rule proposed by the state is breathtaking in its scope, and adoption of it would permit pat-downs of passengers in a staggering number of situations, including stops in which the police have probable cause to believe the car contains evidence of very minor crimes, such as shoplifting,” DeWolfe wrote in the brief to the justices… .

The article also noted that DeWolfe cited the legalization or de-criminalization of small amounts of marijuana by more than 20 states as further evidence that simply having small amounts of marijuana is not viewed as dangerous behavior.

Useful Links

Court of Appeals Case – Joseph Norman Jr. v. State of Maryland

 

New Law Offers Drug Treatment Over Jail, Can State Comply?

On October 1, 2017 the Justice Reinvestment Act went into effect. This new state law reforms Maryland’s criminal justice system, reduces needless correctional spending, and reinvests those savings into programs that reduce recidivism and improve criminal justice outcomes.

A news segment from WYPR reports on provisions of the new law that focus on ensuring individuals suffering from drug addiction are able to receive treatment rather than incarceration. The provision requires that the Department of Health fulfill a court order for treatment within 21 days. Individuals are often held in local jails while awaiting court ordered treatment.

The Department has reduced its wait time for treatment from an average of 167 days in years past to 57 days as of this August. However, citing problems with bureaucracy rather than a lack of resources, representatives are not sure they will be able to meet that 21 day requirement. Rather as Erik Roskes, Director of Forensic Services, states during the segment, “We’re gonna try.” Holding the Department’s feet to the fire is the ability for the court to hold the Secretary in contempt for failing to comply.

Listen to WYPR to learn more:

Or read the article:

Offenders Sentenced to Drug Treatment Have to Wait (WYPR)

Related coverage from Conduit Street:

Local Government Commission Convenes to Discuss Justice Reinvestment

Justice Reinvestment Oversight Board Gears Up For Act’s Implementation

Feds Push Return to ‘Drug War’, Maryland Officials Back Justice Reinvestment

State Health Officials Held in Contempt Over Psych Beds