Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Statement from Sheriff Melvin C. High #PGSO

In the aftermath of Las Vegas…and Sutherland Springs

Upper Marlboro…Watching the scene from Las Vegas transported me back to the hell of the war zone in Vietnam where I served as a Marine Sergeant. In war, I experienced the terror of coming under enemy fire from automatic weapons. The experiences are etched indelibly in my memory along with the ghastly deaths and trauma those weapons caused. The recent mass shooting carnage in both Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs freshen those memories.

But this is America and we are not at war with each other or with our government. The ideology promoting the need for Americans to acquire and use military-style assault weapons against fellow citizens based on differences of political, economic, or social beliefs – or, as in Sutherland Springs, domestic strife - is not in the democratic tradition. Our non-violent actions and processes for redress - peaceful demonstrations, civic activism, public debate, and ultimately the ballot box have served us well. With these as the only acceptable means for maintaining a peaceful and open society, we have been a paragon for other nations.

The Las Vegas massacre and now Sutherland gave us more killing fields of innocent people doing nothing more than enjoying life or worshiping together. The Las Vegas shooter took fifty-eight lives, injured hundreds more, and left a nation in mourning, again. In Sutherland Springs the shooter killed twenty-six people and injured dozens more. There is no plausible explanation but that we haven’t the courage or the political will to address the root cause of much of our violence – guns.

In law enforcement we see the damage wrought by guns, and while we have spoken out about sensible control and management, I am moved to speak by these latest tragedies. In over 40 years of policing, I’ve seen the long-lasting and life-altering effects that gun violence has on families, friends, and communities.

How do we recall these tragedies and in what order? Recalling the tragic outcomes of these mass shootings in the country, Las Vegas leads in deaths and injuries, followed by Orlando, FL, Blacksburg, VA, Newtown, CT, and now Sutherland Springs, TX.

The next four shootings, in Killeen, TX in 1991, San Ysidro, CA in 1984, UT Austin, TX in 1961, and Edmond, OK in 1986 occurred over the course of 38 years. San Bernardino, CA is tenth in loss of life. Ironically, neither the 13 killed and 24 injured in Columbine, CO – so incredible to us in 1999 - or the 12 killed and 70 injured in Aurora, CO in 2012, nor 5 killed and one injured in Tucson, AR, when Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot, even make it into the top 10 most deadly events. The common thread between them is the murder of innocent people killed or injured by a gun, with growing regularity.

Fellow citizens, it’s time we were a thorn in the side of elected officials. Automatic weapons, equipment that makes a weapon automatic, and magazines with dozens of bullet rounds are weapons of war. They must not get into the hands of criminals and the mentally unbalanced.

In my state of Maryland, we’ve moved forward but it’s important that sensible gun policy is a national effort because our borders are open. I’ve seen seasoned investigators anguished by recovered guns used in horrific crimes by people who’d never have been allowed gun ownership had a thorough background check been done at every point of acquisition.

Requiring reasonably thorough background checks would substantially reduce access to firearms by criminals and the identified dangerously mentally ill, effectively preventing them from a mass murder shooting spree. Checks cannot prevent every act of gun violence, but a more comprehensive system of point-of-sale, pre-purchase screening can substantially improve law enforcement’s ability to identify persons unqualified to safely possess firearms and lead to a reduction in gun violence.

We have a unique opportunity to close the weakness in our system. Sensible protocols for all firearms purchasers can lay the groundwork for a future of reduced gun access for unqualified buyers.

Before our fellow citizens begin to fade from memory, we should take a real step forward to save lives and prevent the pain and heartache left in the wake of senseless gun violence. That then will honor those lost, those left suffering, and their families whose lives are forever changed by each tragic killing.

It’s time to do something, for all the other times we as a country have done nothing.

For more information contact the Communications and Public Affairs Division at 301-780-7354.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Progress on Domestic Violence Theme of 6th Annual Partnership Luncheon

Upper Marlboro, MD…Sheriff Melvin C. High and the Office of the Sheriff’s Domestic Violence Intervention Division (DVID) hosted over 165 guests at Newton White Mansion Monday at the 6th Domestic Violence Partnership Luncheon. Of the luncheon, Sheriff High said, “We started the luncheon six years ago to bring together all of the partners who do this work together, to look back over the last  year’s work and to consider how we can make progress going forward.”

The Keynote speaker, Dr. Patricia Bent-Goodley, Professor of Social Work and Chair of the Prince George’s County Lethality Review Team (PGCFRT), in ‘From where we started…’ spoke retrospectively about the work that’s been done to combat domestic violence in the county. Dr. Bent-Goodley urged guests to be encouraged, saying “Prince George’s County has come a long way, we’ve made great progress, and we are on the right track.”

Having worked extensively with other jurisdictions on domestic violence, Dr. Bent-Goodley noted the importance of best-practice developments in Prince George’s County, such as the Family Justice Center and Sheriff’s Deputies’ response protocol in domestic violence calls-for-service. She also highlighted the need to incorporate lessons learned from the work of the FRT into awareness programming and service modules, and including the male perspective on domestic violence.
In his closing remarks, Sheriff High invited guests to join him in reaching the goal of making Prince George’s County the jurisdiction in the state with the lowest number of domestic violence incidents and domestic violence homicides.  

Kaiser Permanente, the presenting sponsor of the luncheon, was represented by Ms. Mindy Rubin, who spoke about domestic violence in the context of community safety, and social and emotional well-being. Ms. Rubin shared information on some of Kaiser’s Community Health 
Initiatives around nutrition, with schools, and with government and community organizations.  

Sheriff High was joined by Nicholas Majett, Chief Administrative Officer and Betty Hager Francis, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Health and Human Services, and Education, who spoke about the county’s commitment and progress in the fight against domestic violence. Betty Hewlett, Chair, Maryland National Capital Park & Planning Commission also spoke about the importance of ending family and domestic violence. Police Chief Hank Stawinski and Fire/EMS Chief Barksdale also attended. 
  
Well-known radio and marketing personality Justine Love MC’d the luncheon as she did six years ago when the luncheon was first held at a venue outside of Sheriff Headquarters.

For more information contact the Communications and Public Affairs Division at 301-780-7354. Photos of the luncheon are available at www.pgsheriff_blogspot.com

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