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