Hundreds of individuals crammed into the cafeteria at Ocean City Elementary School this week to participate in the first of two in-person public meetings as part of the process to create a final environmental impact statement on US Wind’s offshore wind project, which will include 121 turbines in the ocean, four offshore substation platforms and one meteorological tower within the lease area. It was clear the majority of those who came to learn more about the project were adamantly opposed to wind turbines off Ocean City’s coast and stunned by new renderings clearly showing the turbines visible from the beach. The visuals shown in the various renderings were startling.
The fact public comments could not be articulated for all to hear at the meeting, organized by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), enraged some on social media. Some folks viewed the event as a public hearing when it was not. Oral and written comments were accepted at the meeting and at future in-person and virtual gatherings. This week’s session was simply an opportunity to learn more about the project. Posts from local business owners, boat captains and others summarized the event as a “joke” and a “sham” that’s simply required by the government before inevitably advancing the project. The sentiment seems to be wind turbines will eventually be built off Ocean City and there’s nothing the local community can do to stop it. It’s just a matter of how many years it will be, most believe.
In a statement this week, US Wind seemed to be of the same mindset, saying, “Maryland has adopted very ambitious plans to develop offshore wind energy off its coast. US Wind is proud to partner with the state to develop its first offshore wind farm and put Maryland on track to achieving its goals. We’re pleased that BOEM has done such a thorough and comprehensive review of our federal permitting application. US Wind has talked to many, many residents across the state, including Ocean City, about offshore wind and our project plans and we’re confident that a large majority of Marylanders are supportive. We will keep the public informed every step of the way.”
At this point, the process continues with BOEM’s 45-day comment period continuing until Nov. 20. The feedback received about the draft environment impact statement will then be culled with possible changes to the draft before it’s forwarded for approval, disapproval, or modifications.
The concept of encrypted radio communications has been discussed in law enforcement for many years.
At the heart of the issue appears to be police officer safety vs. the public’s right to know. Worcester County Sheriff Matt Crisafulli and Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis are for radio encryption to protect their officers while some folks, namely those in traditional media and social media, are opposed because it cuts off their abilities to listen to incidents and gather details as incidents unfold.
Crisafulli and Lewis are using the same arguments in support of encryption and their comments mirror each other.
“As many of you know, I am a huge proponent of transparency and the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office is more transparent now than ever before,” said Crisafulli. “My intention is to balance the safety of law enforcement personnel, respect the privacy of our citizens, and to continue to be transparent as possible. All communications will continue to be recorded and can be accessed through MPIA requests if needed. During the process of making this decision, I was told by some that the safety of law enforcement personnel was not a substantial reason to encrypt radio transmissions. I could list several scenarios and circumstances to support that this is an officer safety concern. Please keep in mind that when you listen to a scanner at home of our radio transmissions, there are criminals who have the same capabilities.” For his part, Lewis wrote on social media similar sentiments and how social media pages documenting incidents as they happen and without context can be dangerous for officers as well as unnecessarily produce anxiety for the general public.
On the flip side is Earl Campbell, founder of the Eastern Shore Undercover website and Facebook page, who currently uses scanners to update the public on incidents unfolding across the shore. His website and page are popular because they provide real-time information as it happens.
“Encrypting the channels will in essence create an atmosphere where the public will no longer know what is happening, and in my opinion, create a major safety issue for the public and law enforcement,” Campbell said. “The argument that this is an ‘officer safety issue’ has been used many times; however I will argue that by encrypting channels, you are creating a community safety issue, as well as making it less safe for officers. …. We run a very safe page and I have policies in place to make sure, incidents are not posted until it is safe to do so, with delay and never under any circumstances when it could be an officer safety issue. I would encourage you to pick any random call, then compare the time of the call, to the time that it is posted. You will see that there is a significant delay in when the call is posted. Most times, it is 15-20 mins, sometimes longer with major incidents. As a former law enforcement officer, I am fully aware of officer safety concerns and I am one of the most pro-police individuals you will ever meet but at some point, we also have to weigh the safety of the public, in addition to law enforcement.”