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Charles County sheriff candidate Troy Berry handily secured the endorsement of the county’s chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police against incumbent Sheriff Rex Coffey (D) on Tuesday night.

Although he didn’t know the margin of the vote, Berry (D) said it was his understanding the vote, conducted all day Tuesday, was not a close count.

“I was pleased,” Berry said of his reaction when he learned the group had voted to throw its weight behind him. “I was really humbled and grateful. ... It definitely gives me some momentum moving forward toward June 24. I’ll keep taking our message of positive change to the citizens of Charles County.”

There is no Republican candidate for sheriff, so the primary will decide who will win the office.

FOP President Sgt. John Elliott said the numbers for the vote would not be available for 10 days following the vote. Elliott did say, however, that 300 of the roughly 340 members of the lodge voted.

“The numbers reflected that the majority of the FOP voters felt Lt. Berry was the better candidate to endorse,” Elliott said.

Elliott could not say how reliable an indicator the FOP vote is in indicating who will be the victor in the primary election but said it is a decent indicator of the shape of feelings within the agency, which could be noteworthy to the public.

“When things like this get out, it shows where the office stands,” Elliott said. “These are the men and women who work for the Charles County Sheriff’s Office, so I’d say it has some significant weight. They’re the ones there day in and day out.”

Although he didn’t remember exactly what election year it was, former Sheriff Fred Davis recalled losing the FOP endorsement one year but still winning the election. Despite that, Davis said winning their nomination is an important first step.

“It reflects the feelings of the agency to the public,” Davis said. “It has some weight, and with this particular endorsement, the men and women made the decision to bring leadership, integrity and excellence back to the agency. I think they’ve been watching things over the last eight years and decided it’s time for a change.”

Coffey’s (D) statement, sent in an email to the Independent, was concise.

“I didn’t get the support of the majority, but I still support all of the men and women of the FOP, and I will continue to do my best to keep crime out of our county and keep you safe,” Coffey wrote.

On Facebook, Coffey spoke of the recent allegations that have surfaced against him. Coffey was caught on video during an October traffic stop pulling a man from his vehicle during a drunken driving traffic stop, and the agency potentially is facing a brutality lawsuit after the man sustained a concussion and facial lacerations that he said came from Coffey forcing him to the ground and kicking him in the head.

Coffey steadfastly denied any wrongdoing in the incident and noted the timing of the video being released to the press.

“Remember this incident happened 5 months ago and just surfaced the day before the FOP endorsement,” Coffey wrote in a Facebook post.

lrenner@somdnews.com