Joe Clair, WPGC disc jockey and comedian, is disturbed about public safety issues and the police’s perceived hostility toward the residents of Seat Pleasant, Md. So, he decided to do something about it.

Joe Clair is a Seat Pleasant native and WPGC radio personality.

Joe Clair is a Seat Pleasant native and WPGC radio personality.

Clair, in conjunction with the Seat Pleasant Police Department with the Deputy Police Chief Earl Ivey, held a community meeting on Aug. 25 at the Seat Pleasant Recreation Center. Clair told the crowd of 45 people that there needs to be a discussion of police-community relations in Seat Pleasant and in surrounding municipalities.

“We have to start somewhere,” Clair said. “I am a native of Seat Pleasant. I worked at this recreation center when I was 13 because I was too young to get a job and my family wanted me to stay off of the streets.”

Seat Pleasant is located in the far western section of Prince George’s County bordering some of the predominantly Black working-class neighborhoods of far northeast Washington, D.C. The city’s population is 4,542 according to the 2010 census and is 91 percent Black, five percent Latino, and two percent White.

For decades, Seat Pleasant has been perceived as having public safety concerns. City, a national website that tracks trends dealing with urban and suburban matters, reports that in 2014 the national average for property crime was 232.8 crimes committed per 100,000 while Seat Pleasant’s (adjusted for reporting purposes) was 272.6 and for violent crime, Seat Pleasant had 424.5 while the national average was 204.3. While those Seat Pleasant numbers are high, they are a substantial improvement over 2004 that was 332.9 per 100,000 on property crime and 746.6 in violent crime.

Seat Pleasant Mayor Eugene Grant, who took office in October 2004, has worked to increase the number of police officers and his efforts have shown results. In 2014, according to, there was an average of 2.76 police officers per 1,000 residents in Seat Pleasant as opposed to 2.66 officers per 1,000 residents overall in Maryland.

Nevertheless, there were some residents who expressed problems with law enforcement and Ivey said he wants to make amends. “I would like to submit an apology to anyone who has been the victim of the sins of law enforcement,” he said. “We are here to serve and to protect.”

Some residents questioned Ivey’s contention. “I would like to thank you for having this community meeting,” William White IV of Capitol Heights said to Clair. Then he proceeded to list his gripes with the Seat Pleasant, Prince George’s County police, and the District of Columbia’s police forces. White talked about being talked down to by Seat Pleasant and being hostilely confronted by Prince George’s and District police officers over traffic stops and behavior at a Union Station eatery.

“My father was a police officer and I remember the stress he had to deal with,” White said. “It seems that things have gotten worse since he left the force. I feel there is a sense of hostility between the people and the police.

Maryland Del. Darryl Barnes (D-District 25) said “I remember growing up in this county when the police used to beat us down.” Barnes doesn’t represent Seat Pleasant in the House of Delegates but came to the meeting to get some ideas for his Sept. 19 town hall meeting on community policing to be held at Largo High School in Largo, Md.

Seat Pleasant resident Whop Craig said he has a solution to the problem of an abusive police officer. “All of these officers have to be bonded and insured,” Craig told the crowd. “If a police officer violates you, let them do what they want and make a claim on their insurance. In order to deal with the police, you have to get smart, tactical, and hit that insurance.”

A number of comments from members of the audience had to do with the behavior of young people. Charnelle Ferguson, the president of the Bowie State University chapter of the NAACP, said students on her campus can be reached through social media and flyers, and the police should be friendlier to young people. “We need to see the police more when there isn’t any trouble,” Ferguson said. “You only see the police when there is an issue or a problem. Police officers need to engage the community.”