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Sheriff High Discusses First Ninety Days in Office | Crime

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Sheriff High Discusses First Ninety Days in Office
Crime
Sheriff High Discusses First Ninety Days in Office

This story comes to us from Sharon Taylor:

Prince George’s County, Maryland-Sheriff Melvin C. High said at his first press conference as Sheriff, that he has achieved the goals he set out for the first ninety days of his administration as Sheriff and that the Agency is where he hoped it would be.  The Sheriff said warrants have been reduced by over 3,000 since he took office and that the approach he and his leadership team took from day one was to roll up their sleeves with specific plans for the Agency.

“Today, we are quite literally where I hoped to be in the first ninety days in office,” said High. 

Sheriff High said his goals for the first ninety days included raising the urgency around the service of warrants and all court papers; conducting a comprehensive examination of the warrants and strengthening relations with other public safety partners by meeting with the State’s Attorney’s Office, members of the Courts, the Prince George’s County Chief of Police and County Municipal Chiefs.

Of the review and evaluation of warrants Sheriff High said the process has been critical to shaping the agency’s strategy for success. 

Having benchmarked warrants at over 53,000 when he took office, Sheriff High said. “It is simply not possible to gain a meaningful understanding of warrants by looking at the 53,000 number because the picture that emerges with an examination of the number of warrants issued over the last five years is that not only is the total number of warrants on hand increasing but the backlog has steadily increased.”

High said that although warrants have been the subject that has captured the headlines, the Sheriff’s Office has other important work, with its role in School Security and Domestic Violence. High said both were areas of concern that had been recognized by county leadership, in response to the community’s need.

“We can in no way discount them because the workload associated with each of them substantiates that the need remains,” said High.     

Sheriff High said he believes that safe, orderly school environments can be a reality for students, parents and school administrators through a non-negotiable, problem-solving partnership and spoke briefly about the recent disorder at High Point High School and the arrest at Suitland High School by a Sheriff’s Deputy of an intruder at the school.

Regarding the Sheriff’s role in Domestic Violence, Sheriff High said the recent report of a decline in deaths related to domestic violence was good news for the community and that records show that the effort of the Sheriff’s Office Domestic Violence Advocates is increasing.

Specifically, Sheriff High said, “The more we engage victims and survivors of domestic violence and as we gain expertise, we see that people are willing to accept the service as an aid to break the cycle of violence rather that not doing so and living in danger and in the shadows.”

Chief Assistant Sheriff Colonel Darrin Palmer, said his responsibility is to carry out the vision and mission of the Sheriff and that a restructuring of the Bureaus – Field Operations, Court Services and Administration - combined like functions for greater continuity of command.

Providing statistical specifics, Chief Assistant Sheriff Palmer talked through the findings of the comprehensive review of warrants saying that of the over 53,000 on file on December 15, 2010, half or approximately 26,000 were for failure to appear (FTA) in court for motor vehicle offenses.

Of these and other misdemeanor charges, Palmer said,”…many of these charges lack prosecutorial merit.” Palmer said, because warrants in Prince George’s County never expire, they remain open until served unlike in Virginia where state law permits some misdemeanor warrants to be dropped after three years.

Colonel Palmer said existing warrants date back to the 1960s and 1970s and that the Sheriff’s Office is working with the State’s Attorney’s Office and the courts to identify cases that may be appropriate to dismiss based on the age of the underlying charge and the viability of successful prosecution.

In a review of felony warrants, Colonel Palmer said the Agency’s focus has, of course, been on the most serious charges – violent felony cases. Palmer said the number of cases was about 860 and that understanding them was critical.

“Many of the violent crimes, like homicide, rape or carjacking show as being open, but we have identified the wanted person and their location,” said Palmer. Further, Palmer said that when the Sheriff’s Office identifies a person incarcerated in another jurisdiction, it files a ‘detainer’ with the facility for their return to the County. And, when they bring a person serving time in another jurisdiction to the County for trial and then returns them to that jurisdiction, their status at the Sheriff’s Office is a ‘commitment’.

“What is important to know is that in both cases the warrant remains open,” said Palmer. “These cases represent approximately 38 percent of our violent felony cases.” 

Colonel Palmer noted the six percent (3,000) decline in warrants in the first three months under Sheriff High and the reduction from 12 weeks to approximately six to eight weeks serving evictions.  

 

Colonel Palmer closed his remarks by acknowledging the hard work, dedication and knowledge of the people at the Sheriff’s Office - sworn, civilian and volunteers.

Early in his presentation, Sheriff High talked about his experience as the Prince George’s County Police Chief from 2003 thru 2008, the challenge of rebuilding the department and doing the work that ultimately resulted in the Department’s release from Justice Department oversight. High said his guiding tenant then as now is to work to best-practice standards.

High said the community helped arrest over 100 of the worst criminals through the Police Department’s ‘Most Wanted’ Program, and that his office is laying the groundwork for a similar program. “Our relationship with the community is a good one. Residents support us and I believe they are still willing to help us and to be partners in community safety. But being good partners means the community has a right to challenge us and we them.”

Sheriff High said he’s aware of how hard it is to come back from being behind and that while he believes that has been the view of the Sheriff’s Office based on the number of warrants on file, he doesn’t see it that way. “I see moving forward for us as identifying and operating along a path that provides the best service to the county and gets the job done.

“I pledged my considerable experience to the executive branch and to the County’s overall Public Safety Strategy, to use our resources to the greater good as a partner in that strategy. On that pledge, this Sheriff will never waiver.”

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