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Media Release
July 8th 2020

The Country is currently facing multiple challenges from the COVID19 pandemic to racial issues, the use of force by law enforcement and the protests that have followed. In Garrett County we are not immune to these concerns, I will leave COVID19 to the Health experts but want to weigh in on the other two issues.

Over the past several weeks many people have communicated with me regarding rights to protest, display flags or display items in their yards that others find offensive. Some folks even suggest that certain displays constitute “hate crimes”.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees individual right to the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. As Sheriff I am sworn to uphold the Constitution as are all my deputies. While I may or may not agree with the messages expressed by protesters, I am sworn to protect their right to peaceful expression, and I will faithfully carry out that duty.

Some have mistakenly suggested that these displays may constitute “Hate Crimes”. From the FBI website a hate crime is defined as:

“A hate crime is a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, the FBI has defined a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” Hate itself is not a crime—and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties.”

Employees of the Garrett County Sheriff’s Office take great pride in providing professional law enforcement services to all citizens in Garrett County. The Sheriff’s Office has and will continue to take appropriate action in the event of a hate crime, however the mere display of something one finds offensive is not a hate crime.

The Garrett County Sheriff’s Office, as well as every other police departments in the state, complete a monthly Unified Crime Report, reported to the FBI, which captures hate crime statistics. While I know Garrett County is not immune to hate there has been only 1 reported case since 2013 that met the requirements of a reportable hate crime.

As Sheriff I expect our deputies to adhere to the highest professional standards of law enforcement. During my tenure as Sheriff there have been no validated complaints of police brutality.

The use of excessive force has no place in law enforcement. If you would like to report a case of Police Brutality for investigation there is a link to the process on our Garrett County Sheriff’s Office web page. https://www.garrettcounty.org/sheriffs-office This link has been available since 2015, all complaints will be investigated thoroughly.

I certainly understand the concerns regarding racial bias however I am very proud of the outstanding Garrett County Deputies, Correctional Officers, Animal Control Officers and 911 personnel for remaining professional and unbiased during these trying times.

Crimes against citizens because of their Race, Religion, Disability, Ethnicity/ National Origin, Sexual Orientation and Gender are unacceptable. It’s that simple, it’s the law and to tolerate or minimize them is contrary to the culture of the Garrett County Sheriff’s Office.

Thank you for supporting the Men and Women of the Garrett County Sheriff’s Department, Maryland State Police, Maryland Natural Resource Police and Oakland City Police Department

Sheriff Rob Corley

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