Left to right, Calvert County Sheriff Mike Evans and County Commissioner Pat Nutter
Prince Frederick, MD – The formality of conducting a required public hearing was completed Tuesday, June 20 at the Calvert County Commissioners’ meeting. In the end a majority of commissioners gave the OK to the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office request for over $215,000 for the purchase of two license plate readers (LPRs). The money is coming from the county government’s Safety Camera Revenue Account. The hearing was required because the purchase amount exceeds $100,000.
The Safety Camera Revenue Account, a component of the Safety for Students Act, is funded by money realized from fines levied against drivers who exceed the speed limit in school zones where the cameras are set up. Another portion of the account is being used to purchase body cameras for several deputies. That allocation is within the fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget, which takes effect July 1.
The request for the purchase of two LPRs was made last month by Sheriff Mike Evans [R]. “The LPRs will effectively capture license plate information of all vehicles entering and exiting via routes 260 and 4, which is important because a majority of bank robberies and armed robberies of businesses have historically occurred in Northern Calvert County,” Assistant Sheriff Lt. Colonel Dave McDowell stated in a memo to the commissioners. “This is part of the sheriff’s plan to use the Safety for Students program revenue source to purchase one-time, high priority expenditures for equipment and other operational needs.”
No member of the public spoke at the public hearing, however, a few of the commissioners had plenty to say prior to a final vote. Despite assurances from McDowell and Evans that data recorded by the LPRs was not to be used for nefarious purposes, Commissioner Pat Nutter [R – District 2] indicated he was opposed to the plan. “I don’t want to end up in ‘big brother’ syndrome—that’s where America is headed,” said Nutter, a retired sheriff’s deputy.
Evans stated that the county already has LPRs and “they have been a great tool.” The sheriff declared have the LPRs in place at the county’s north border would help address a serious public safety issue. “We are only looking for people who are breaking the law,” said Evans.
Commissioners’ Vice President Evan K. Slaughenhoupt Jr. [R – District 3] stated that the LPRs were “the electronic version” of human eyewitnesses.
“Most people move here for the quality of life,” said Commissioner Mike Hart [R – District 1], adding that public safety contributed to the quality. “I would like to expand it [LPR program]. This is going to give police so many more pairs of eyes.
Still, Nutter argued that have motor vehicle license plates observed and recorded was compromising an individual’s privacy. “There’s no privacy, Pat. It’s just a part of life,” said Commissioners’ President Tom Hejl [R – At large], who is also a law enforcement veteran.
Sensing there might not be an end to the discussion, Hejl called for a vote. The board voted 4-to-1, with Nutter opposed, to closing the public record and approving the budget resolution.
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