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Posted at 4:29 PM ET, 11/18/2010

Pr. George's exec.-elect urged to keep Hylton

By Matt Zapotosky
Matt Zapotosky

Three Prince George's police officers were recently arrested as part of a federal investigation into drug running and cigarette smuggling.

A fourth was indicted for selling guns he had taken off the streets back to criminals.

Others have faced comparatively less serious criminal charges or allegations, including drunk driving and using excessive force.

Undoubtedly, there are some bad apples in the Prince George's County Police Department. But a group of more than a dozen civic associations and community activists feel they have identified the man who can clean house: He's the police chief.

On Tuesday, a group calling itself The Coalition of Prince George's County Organizations and Leaders gathered outside county executive-elect Rushern Baker's transition headquarters in Largo to urge that Roberto Hylton be retained as police chief in the next administration.

Hylton, the coalition members said, has brought crime to record lows, established working relationships with residents and demonstrated that he is committed to weeding out those who should not be wearing a badge.

"When the department has faced problems that would undermine community trust ... he has unwaveringly and honestly faced cameras and said, 'Yes, we have problems, serious problems, in our department. I have been cleaning up this department, and I am committed to finishing the job,'" said Hakim Muhummad, who heads the Kingswood Civic Association.

The coalition includes the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association, Templeton Knolls Civic Association, the Prince George's County Taxi Worker Alliance and CASA de Maryland. Several county police officers were also at the press conference.

Hylton has long enjoyed broad grassroots support in Prince George's, especially in Latino communities.

Early in his tenure as chief, he expanded the number of community police officers who focus on smaller crime problems that draw the ire of residents. He also regularly attends church and other civic association events himself, and he often fields residents' calls on his cell phone.

What is interesting is that residents' support of Hylton is unwavering in the wake of a federal corruption probe that could sweep up even more officers. Coalition members said they don't blame Hylton for the problems; they are appreciative of his efforts to address them.

Some at the press conference, however, were critical of Baker. Luis A. Rodriguez-Soto, the executive director of the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association, said he worried Baker was not appointing enough Hispanics to his transition team and that Hylton, who played a large part in increasing the number of Hispanic officers in the department to 127 --roughly eight percent of the force -- was unfairly not being considered to keep his job.

Others at the press conference said their intention was not to attack Baker or force his hand in making an appointment.

Former County Executive Wayne Curry, who heads Baker's transition team, appeared at the press conference and said it would be "premature" for the executive-elect to make any personnel decisions now. He said Baker, who is officially sworn in next month, had met with Hylton privately. A Baker spokesman said they would likely meet again.

Sources have said Baker is looking nationally for a possible replacement to Hylton, though many local names have emerged as contenders. Among them are former U.S. Park and current Riverdale Park Police Chief Teresa C. Chambers, Prince George's Deputy Police Chief Kevin Davis and former Prince George's Deputy Police Chief Anita Rosser, though Rosser's name is also mentioned as a contender for the public safety director position.

Through his public affairs commander, Hylton declined to comment on the press conference.

By Matt Zapotosky  | November 18, 2010; 4:29 PM ET
Categories:  Matt Zapotosky, Pr. George's, Updates  
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Excessive force by an officer of the law is very serious.

"...less serious...excessive force..." I can't believe anyone would think "excessive force" by a police officer is "less serious". If the excessive force was applied to you I'm sure you would have a different opinion.

Posted by: rlj1 | November 18, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

If Rushern Baker decides to keep Chief Hylton then he needs to follow the recommendations of Envision Prince George’s and mandate a Citizen’s Advisory for the Chief of Police. I served for 6 years voluntarily on the Advisory under Cheifs Mitchell, Ferrel, Wilson, and High- 1 year as chair. It is imperative that the PGPD be proactive as opposed to reactionary. Case in point, a few months ago when the video footage of the student and the officers at the University of Maryland became public, Chief Hylton called together a rush meeting of the community to discuss the situation and took names of individuals to serve on an advisory to the Chief.
But wait; didn’t Chief Hylton disband the advisory? A few weeks before the College Park incident I asked the Chief why he disbanded the Advisory and he told me “I hear enough from the citizens.” Perhaps the Department of Justice was mistaken to remove oversight when the Chief of Police in a jurisdiction this large is so misguided. The communication between the PGPD and citizens must be ongoing at all times and not just initiated when the chief or some officers get some bad press.
The Advisory to the Chief should be a standing Advisory and institutionalized so as not to disappear at the whim of a chief. I will say that under the Curry Administration the Advisory did function under chief Ferrel and Chef High. If Hylton does not want to work with a citizen’s advisory, then perhaps it is time for retirement.
Theresa Dudley

Posted by: tmdudley63 | November 18, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Let the games begin.

Posted by: gpl2411 | November 18, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Theresa Chambers and Anita Rosser are both excellent choices for Chief of Police. Chief Chambers already has proven herself to be an outstanding and disciplined leader.

The first action item the new chief should do is have all officers retake their oaths, and to remind the officers they serve the tax payers of the county, and not the other way around.

The second action item the new chief should do is to retest all academy graduates who received questionable test grades last year.

Posted by: PGneedsaccountability | November 18, 2010 7:23 PM | Report abuse

My daughter and I were driving down Annapolis Road today and heard loud music coming from the car next to us. To our dismay, it was a Prince Georges Police car belting out tunes as if he were in his own private vehicle. My daughter, who is a newly licensed driver in Maryland, also remarked about how many officers we have seen driving with no seat belts, on their cell phones and had no obvious regard for the traffic laws that they were duly sworn to enforce. i.e. running red lights, changing lanes without signaling and cutting off traffic. This department needs a wake-up call and perhaps this is not the chief to do it. If you want to enforce the laws of Maryland, start by obeying it yourselves!

Posted by: slang53979 | November 18, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Being a new board member of a Civic Association, I have been too pleased by the upfront approach shown by Chief Hylton. He acknowledges that there is MUCH to be done within the department and IS!

Personally I find him the right liaison to bring the many nationalities together in PG. His Latino background makes him more accepted to getting to the real heart of the problems. We want a community driven police dept that listens. It's going to take strong neighborhoods to makes a strong PG. That's what Chief Hylton knows. He has given us the confidence in knowing we are being heard.
Btw: crime is down in my neighborhood.

Are you involved in your community or are you like the masses that want to complain and think that police are mind readers to what goes on in YOUR community. Suggestion, check out your Civic Association and meet Chief Hylton up close and personal.

Posted by: lgordon | November 19, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

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