Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III (Courtesy Photo)

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III recently stated that he supports the direction the county’s police department is headed.

Baker spoke at a forum sponsored by the Iota Gamma Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority titled: “We Are One: Policing and the African American Community” that took place on Nov. 5 at the City of Praise Family Ministries center in Landover, Md. Baker was upbeat about his primary law enforcement agency. The forum occurred after a Black D.C. police officer was pinned to the ground by Prince George’s County law enforcement when they were responding to a crime at Iverson Mall in Temple Hill, Md.

“The state of policing in Prince George’s County is good,” Baker said. He said when he became county executive in 2010 he made it a priority to see the police force was effective and responsive to all citizens. “When I came here from Massachusetts to go to Howard University in 1978, I was told at Howard not to go to Prince George’s County,” he said. “I was told it was like going to Mississippi or Valdosta, Ga. I was told not to cross the District of Columbia line to go into Prince George’s.”

Baker said that during the 1990s, he, as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, along with Black State’s Attorney Jack Johnson and Black County Executive Wayne Curry worked on trying to change the police department. Baker said that one of his first acts as county executive was to change the culture of the department. “I wanted to choose a police chief and the command staff that reflects the way the county looks,” he said. He has worked with his police chiefs, State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, the head of the county’s police union, and others to meet the requirements of a U.S. Department of Justice mandate that charges the county with making its police department more responsive to the community.

(Photo courtesy Prince George Police Department/Twitter)

(Photo courtesy Prince George Police Department/Twitter)

“We have instituted implicit bias training,” Baker said, referring to the subconscious practice of judging people based on appearance. “We also want to make sure that the department reflects the racial and gender balance of the county.”

Baker wasn’t the only speaker at the forum. There was a panel discussion on police practices moderated by attorney Bobby Henry that touched on many subjects.

Jerrod Mustaf, former NBA star and president of Take Charge, a non-profit that assists young people, said police officers don’t interact with young people the way they used to. “The police officers served as the coaches with the Boys & Girls Clubs and in the recreation centers,” he said. “They don’t do that as much now and I think that is a problem.”

Prince George’s County Board of Education member Edward Burroughs III is the youngest member of his body and knows well the ordeal that Black teens and adults go through in dealing with law enforcement in Prince George’s County. “I have been pulled over in Laurel a dozen times and the officers that did it didn’t look like me or you,” said Burroughs. He added that officers should try to be a part of the communities they serve “at times other than National Night Out.”

Henry urged the audience to be cooperative, instead of combative, when dealing with the police. “I tell my clients to survive the stop,” he said. “You want to de-escalate the situation. Put your hands on the steering wheel when stopped and at night, put on the interior light.”

The Rev. Guy Molock Jr., co-pastors of the Beloved Community Church in Accokeek, said the faith sector has a role to play in good police-community relations. “So many people have lost hope and the church should be there to let anyone know there is hope no matter what the circumstances,” Molock said. “The church has to be of the community and not just in the community.”

Seat Pleasant Mayor Eugene Grant said Blacks problems with the police are a revelation of deeper issues in the community. “Relationships individually must improve,” the mayor said. “Those are the discussions that we need to have. We need to understand the humanness of who we are.”