By Brian Gilliland, Associate Editor
(June 21, 2018) Scott Bernal, a Marine, former Secret Service agent and retired OCPD detective, thinks that if Worcester County residents are seeking a sheriff based on his tactical ability, then he is the clear choice.
“I have the determination of a young Marine — I’m ready to go. I don’t hesitate. If this job paid $5 per year I’d still take it,” he said. “I love this community.”
Bernal served in the Marines from 1981-85, and in the reserves until 1987. He was hired as a seasonal OCPD officer in 1988, and remained with the department until 2015.
Bernal worked the patrol division, narcotics unit and the major crimes unit, but spent the majority of his time in the criminal investigation unit. He is known outside of Ocean City as the lead detective in the Sifrit murder case of 2002.
“Six or seven months after I moved here I was in the Ocean City Police Department. After one year on the job here, I put in for the quick response team,” he said.
The quick response team is the resort’s analogue for the SWAT team.
“Normally, it takes three years,” Bernal said, but with his previous tactical training, he was promoted early, eventually leading the team for 13 years.
Bernal said he is the current record holder for handgun accuracy at the police academy, and has been for many years. He’s achieved the highest proficiency with the weapon, as a master, and was a firearms instructor with the OCPD and at the academy.
“You need an accuracy of 248/250 for three years to become a master. I’ve never had less than 250/250,” he said.
He’s certified in the use of a 9mm Beretta, .357 revolvers and .40 caliber Sig Sauer — which is his preferred weapon.
“I’m going to make sure thee officers are the best they can be. It’s easy to miss a target if you don’t train properly,” he said.
During the summer when certain areas of Worcester County are more populated than others, and if there’s an incident requiring a tactical response, Bernal said he’s keenly aware of what can happen with a stray bullet.
He said he’s also engaged suspects in less lethal circumstances risking injury or worse because he didn’t want to draw his weapon during an altercation.
“Our best tool is our mouth, to talk out situations that are escalating,” he said.
Technology is also a big part of the Bernal platform. He said he is seeking donations of equipment and services to ensure Worcester County’s place as one of the safest in the country.
“President Obama stopped the flow of military surplus to local police departments because he didn’t want to fight fire with fire. I want to fight fire with 10 fires,” Bernal said.
One of these devices is made by a company founded by Stephen Decatur High School graduate Robert Hilliard, who has designed a device to coordinate armed response to an armed threat.
The device looks like a small camper, which administers a host of other operations from security camera feeds to odor sniffers to detect explosives to managing drone deployment.
Bernal said he wants to install one of these stations at each area school in case a quick, coordinated response is warranted.
“If a gunshot is heard in a school the cameras are trained to zoom in on the suspect and you get immediate facial and body contour imaging. Maybe you can ID the weapon and follow them around the school to know where they’re going,” he said. “This is what I’m bringing to the table. I’m showing, not telling.”