Charles County Sheriff Troy Berry’s Sloppy and Illegal Conduct of Speed Cameras Produces Double-Talk
– Following the disclosure by THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY that the Charles County Sheriff’s Department was illegally assessing speeding fines to some vehicles and subcontracting police duties to the Howard County Police Department, Sheriff Troy Berry was forced to do a double take on how his speed camera program operated.
While Sheriff Berry’s Sheriff’s Office continues to downplay how many violations were refunded after the request for this information from Charles County by THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY, it is essential for the sake of conforming to the Maryland Public Information Act for Sheriff Berry to release the results of the internal audit his agency conducted, the time frame for the audit, and how far back in time the issuance of illegal violations covers.
Of course, news organizations can expect that a hefty charge will likely be associated with that records request, as many errant public officials use such charges as a ruse to avoid allowing the public to know about the illegal operations of the government. An example is a recent Maryland court ruling involving the Calvert County Sheriff’s Department.
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Apparently, Sheriff Berry is switching gears. His actions state if you can’t follow the law, change it to fit your needs, a growing trend by politicians that has seen crime skyrocket in recent years.
According to the Sheriff’s press release, Sheriff Berry wants to change the motor vehicle law definitions to ensure everyone gets an automated ticket. This attempt will involve the Maryland General Assembly actually to change the law.
Berry apparently wants everyone to be held equally accountable and thereby further expand the considerable slush fund of speeding fines to be at his disposal.
The Charles County Sheriff’s Department should start with internal accountability and fess up to the numbers going back to the program’s inception, which is flawed from the beginning.
If Berry’s Sheriff’s Department illegally issued simple automated civil infractions, what else is happening under his nose? Are guns that are confiscated being accounted for? What about seizures of drugs and cash?
What law changes can be expected after Sheriff Berry learns about other illegal activities or misgivings?
It is highly questionable whether Sheriff Berry’s Sheriff’s Department could identify the drivers operating the vehicles, as stated in his press release, unless the agency contacted the rental car companies for each violation issued or were illegally taking photos through the front of the car, violating driver’ privacy for a civil offense. Even then, the individual would have to accept liability for the violation through an established process. A process that would not show the citation being issued to the rental car company any further but to the person who accepted liability.
Rental car companies seldom do a transfer of liability.
They pass on the fine with a hefty surcharge to rental vehicle operators and pay the violation. While paying a violation is an admission of guilt, that can’t be the case for a violation that should have never been issued.
The people deserve numbers and a clear answer rather than a fluff press release trying to divert attention to focusing on how the cameras keep the kids safe.
Over the last two weeks, drivers routinely traveling Maryland State Route 228 were asked if they saw a school-aged child crossing Route 228 or walking down the road. The resounding answer is no. That’s because the schools are not located on 228, and Charles County Transportation transports the Children.
If Berry’s position on school safety is a priority, number one, not revenue, he would ensure the cameras were not functioning on Federal Holidays when schools are closed and not operating during the summer when schools are not in session and there is no school activity.
This could be accomplished by coordinating with the Charles County Public School System. Still, just like the so-called audit, it’s all about saving the program, saving face, and raking in the money so the citizens won’t see that happen.
There’s no question that the politicians in Charles County are less than transparent. A shining example is Commissioner Tomasina Coates, whom Sheriff Berry, the Chief Law Enforcement Officer, has failed to condemn for illegal actions. If Coates and a Deputy switched places regarding her circumstances, Sheriff Berry would surely be on the news throwing them to the wolves. The politicians will stick together, shedding less light, if any, to protect the little bit of power they think they hold.
The citizens of St Mary’s County can expect the same problems from speed cameras as the St Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office looks to piggyback off the same contract as Charles County for Speed Cameras. In a telling statement, sources close to the St Mary’s County Sheriff’s Department stated that Convict Sheriff Steve Hall is already looking at vendors and planning a program rollout. Apparently, the public hearing is just a formality in the process, and the commissioners have all but made up their minds on the vote to approve speed cameras in St Mary’s County.