I was troubled by the report in the June 26 Calvert Recorder about the meeting between the sheriffs of Calvert, St. Mary’s and Charles counties. While they discussed the use of force, they did not elaborate on their policies for its implementation. Nor did they describe what their policies were for crowd control or use of tear gas.

The use of gas at the June 1 Black Lives Matter demonstration in Prince Frederick leaves important policy questions unanswered. Sheriff Mike Evans (R) may have gotten more compliments than complaints about that usage, but I’ve heard from people who were there that the use of tear gas was unnecessary.

When I tried to learn more about the policies that guide the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office, I went to its website and saw no detailed information on use of force policies. While a policy manual is available on the website, there are no specifics about the use of force. What is the policy? Why isn’t the public informed about the policy regarding use of debilitating substance on them? Is there any opportunity for public input to such policies?

After review of the sheriff’s website and the report of the three sheriffs’ meeting, I was left with many basic questions:

Why were neither the press nor public allowed to observe these discussions on issues critical to safe, responsible law enforcement operations?

Why didn’t the sheriffs discuss the use of tear gas so soon after its controversial employment on June 1?

The Calvert Sheriff’s Office of Professional Standards investigates citizen complaints, but there is no indication of meaningful citizen involvement in the process. While its website says that it engages with the Community Mediation Center of Calvert, it does not clarify the mediation center’s role. If it participates only when invited, how can Calvert citizens have an effective say in policy decisions?

What is the use of force policy? The sheriff’s manual unhelpfully says: “Deputies will use force consistent with established CCSO policy and procedures.”

What are the policies that the department’s Administrative and Judicial Services Bureau reviews? Is the public allowed to participate in the development of these policies? If not, why not?

Does the Calvert Board of County Commissioners have any say in the formulation of these policies? If so, where, and how does this involvement occur?

Why is the process for reporting complaints about officer conduct so intimidating and inconvenient for citizens? People wishing to file a complaint must go to the sheriff’s office and meet a supervisor before they can even get the required complaint form.

I’m raising these questions not to criticize the sheriff’s office, but to promote citizen engagement in the formulation of policies affectiWng security and public safety. We need policies that not only enable law enforcement to operate safely and effectively, but also contain substantive input from citizens.

In the interest of transparency during these times of troubled relations between communities and law enforcement, the residents of Calvert County need clear answers to these questions and a role in policy formulation.