Hylton supporters take aim at Baker
Dozens of Prince George's County civic associations and community activists who rallied last month in support of police chief Roberto Hylton sharpened their rhetoric against the incoming county executive Thursday, saying they were "outraged" by the process by which Rushern Baker apparently decided he needed a new chief.
The group calling itself The Coalition of Prince George's County Organizations and Leaders did not take questions at a news conference at Trinity Moravian Church, but members said they had been excluded from Baker's transition process. The conference came in response to news that Hylton would be replaced as chief after Baker takes office Monday.
"We believe that the community has not had a voice in this process," said Hakim Muhammad, president of the Kingswood Civic Association. "Repeatedly, we've asked to come to the table. That has not happened."
Scott Peterson, a Baker spokesman, said Baker's transition committee was made up of a "diverse cross section" of people "representing all interests" in the county. He said that Baker had held a listening event specifically on the topic of public safety, and Baker had invited people to share their opinions with him through his transition Web site.
"The transition committee itself has been very open and listened to all interested parties in the community," he said.
The group's outrage creates an interesting backdrop for Baker's inauguration on Monday. Baker will seemingly lose some points with residents should he appoint an interim chief as expected, and the interim chief will have an uphill battle winning residents approval. Peterson said Thursday that no final decision has been made on whether Hylton will be replaced. Hylton continued to say no one from the Baker camp had talked to him about his future.
Hylton also said he has intentionally "stayed away" from the coalition's news conferences because he did not want to get involved in the "political chaos." His brother, former sheriff's candidate Rafael Hylton, was in attendance.
The coalition also took aim Thursday at the police union - claiming it has too much influence on Baker. Members praised Hylton for his efforts to discipline corrupt and incompetent officers and made frequent references to the fact that 46 are suspended or on desk duty for some type of malfeasance.
One of the coalition members, the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association, said a "hit list" of Hylton supporters, all minority officers, had been circulating inside the police department, and those on the list would face retaliation in a new chief's administration. The group declined to provide any proof of the list but said it would be submitted to the Justice Department for a possible investigation.
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