The St. Mary’s sheriff talked about restraints, review boards and police accountability Thursday evening during a virtual St. Mary’s NAACP meeting.
Sheriff Tim Cameron (R) called in and answered multiple questions from viewers the organization fielded through NAACP member Mia Bowers.
Bowers asked about the use of knee-holds or any other techniques “that could turn deadly” during an arrest. This was a topic Cameron said was addressed at a June 19 summit in Calvert that he attended with Sheriff Troy Berry (D) of Charles County and Sheriff Mike Evans (R) of Calvert.
“We don’t teach that. We don’t authorize that,” he said about knee-to-neck restraint.
However, he said they do use the knee in an arresting technique, but place it on the small of the arrestee’s back. The Southern Maryland Criminal Justice Academy also teaches a shoulder pin, a “lateral vascular neck restraint,” Cameron said, which puts pressure on one side of the carotid artery.
“Based on the meeting last Friday, I don’t know if we’re going to continue to teach that,” he said, adding that he believes that technique was only used twice in the last several years in this area.
Cameron said that hold brought great scrutiny and they will soon make a determination whether or not to keep it.
The public can view the office’s policies and procedures on its website, www.firstsheriff.com, which spells out expectations of staff, he said.
“About 87 to 88% of discipline came from internal. And that’s the supervisors doing their jobs,” Cameron said.
Bowers said the NAACP wants to know about the use of force continuum, which Cameron said started in the early 1990s and discontinued in the early 2000s because it “escalated force unnecessarily.” It gave officers the right to respond aggressively to a person who appeared to challenge them.
Now, he said, police use the critical decision making model, which tells the officer to start a dialogue to avoid escalating the situation.
The critical thinking model is part of ICAT or integrating, communications, assessment and tactics, a use of force training guide by which Cameron’s deputies abide. They have also been using body cameras since 2013, he said, with two other cameras in their police cars.
A few questions were asked about a citizen review board, but Cameron said Maryland does not have those boards, except in Baltimore city. A viewer asked if Cameron would support changing the law to allow those boards to exist.
Cameron said he would not because he is not sure what that would look like.
“I do support adding citizens to a police trial board or a police hearing board that would have voting authority,” he said.
St. Mary’s deputies are CALEA certified, Cameron said, which stands for Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. He said only a limited number of agencies have that certification, after a few police organizations demanded national standards for law enforcement. The standards can change based on communities’ interactions with police.
“So there are other outside forces that help with the checks and balances to make sure things are being done in an appropriate way,” she said.
Another police accountability measure Cameron mentioned exists in Maryland’s police standard commission that “tells me how I have to bring someone in the agency.”
When an officer is terminated for misconduct, his or her file is flagged. If another Maryland agency tries to hire a previously terminated officer, that officer would not be recertified.
An agency could request a hearing waiver, but from Cameron’s two-year experience on the commission, a waiver was never granted to an officer who was terminated due to a use-of-force issue.
In response to a question about racial diversity within his deputies, Cameron said they have a diversity recruitment plan that includes recruiting from black colleges and universities and certain military installations. They also have a recruiting commercial coming soon, he said.
There are seven black deputies of the 145 sworn-in law enforcement officers, or 5%, Jason Babcock, spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said. He added that the office has four vacancies for officers.
“It’s a difficult time to recruit anyone right now,” Cameron said, adding that they are not reflective of the community, but hoping to get there.