- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Charles County government should create a committee to monitor local law enforcement, a task force recommended Tuesday.
Creating a panel to oversee the activities of the Charles County Sheriff’s Office could increase residents’ trust in the police and confidence in the justice system, said Assistant County Attorney Elizabeth Theobalds, who advised the Citizens Law Enforcement Task Force during its deliberations.
“There is a need for a citizens’ and law enforcement advisory panel, and that is going to be a recommendation of the committee,” she said.
Commissioners’ President Candice Quinn Kelly (D) suggested that the task force reconvene to draft specific recommendations for forming the new committee, prompting task force Chairman Edward Holland III to object that it is hard to assemble a quorum of the 12-member task force. The commissioners decided to readvertise positions on the task force to replace inactive members.
Charles County Sheriff Rex Coffey (D) has long opposed the creation of an oversight panel, but said he would take a “wait-and-see approach and see what they really intend to do.”
“My opinion hasn’t changed. I see absolutely no need for it, and I don’t know what stage they’re at in their process,” Coffey said. “If I thought there was a remote need for it, that’s the way it is in law enforcement — if you see a need for it, you do it.”
Despite public misgivings, county residents have no reason to distrust sheriff’s officers, Coffey said.
“I don’t think it’s any secret that some people in our community are suspicious of the police,” he said. “Me personally, I don’t need anybody to stand behind me with a foot over my neck to make me do the right thing, because I’m going to do it regardless.”
But Commissioner Reuben B. Collins II (D) said a panel would “not necessarily [be] hostile to the interests of law enforcement,” while Kelly sought to ensure that officers would be represented on the final committee.
“Do you envision a strong component from the Charles County Sheriff’s Office?” she asked.
“Strong, I don’t know, but certainly something,” replied task force member Al Jackson.