The race for Prince George’s County sheriff’s seat unites contenders with contrasting management styles and experiences. While all six men – Rafael Hylton, Edward R. Cheeks, Melvin C. High, Danny Hall, Michael T. Gonnella and Louis T. Wood– have backgrounds in law enforcement, each candidate has a unique perspective on what role the Prince George’s County sheriff should play.
Rafael Hylton said the sheriff’s department is key in protecting county residents and wants to strengthen that position. “The sheriff’s office is the central repository for the warrants in the county,” said Hylton, brother of Prince George’s County Police Chief Roberto Hylton and a native of Panama. “We are accountable for the crime that goes on in the county. Everybody wants to hold the police accountable by themselves. We are accountable to the citizens by serving warrants and court documents.”
Hylton has been a county resident since 1975 and has been practicing law enforcement since 1977. After 25 years in the police department, Hylton retired only to become a sheriff’s deputy in the county.
Like Hylton, District Heights resident Edward R. Cheeks, a retired Washington, D.C. Metropolitan police officer, has dedicated his career to protecting the community.
In his 20 years of service, Cheeks was able to work his way to the rank of lieutenant. He holds an associate’s degree from Prince George’s Community College and has a hands-on approach to the sheriff’s seat. He wants to change the way the sheriff’s department is seen by residents in the wake of several incidents that have plagued the agency, including the wrongful shooting of Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo’s dog.
“All deputies will be held accountable for their actions including sergeants and lieutenants,” said Cheeks. “People will be responsible for their mistakes. If not, they’ll be out of here and I’ll find someone who’s willing to do the right thing.”
Former Prince George’s Police Chief Melvin C. High may have the most relevant experience as the former head of a law enforcement agency, and hopes to improve courthouse safety, crack down on gang violence in schools and improve the response time on arrest warrants.
“Many of you know that I have led three major police departments including PGPD during the most difficult time in its history,” High said in a message on his Web site. “By working together and closely with the community, we grew in midst of change and brought crime down. The knowledge and experience that fueled those successes are what I will bring to the Office of the Sheriff.”
Also vying for the county sheriff position is Darryl Morgan, a near lifelong resident of Prince George’s County and a 20-year veteran of the Maryland State Police and District of Columbia Protective Services Police. During those years Morgan was tasked with helping to create community policing academies along with new patrol and investigative divisions. He believes the diversity of positions he held within both departments will allow him to positively influence the sheriff’s department.
“Producing results that reflect the values and expectations of Prince George’s County residents is my paramount priority,” Morgan said via his Web site. “With over 21 years of law enforcement and public safety experience, I am the only candidate with regional and state executive experience uniquely qualified to serve the citizens of Prince George’s County.”
High’s and Morgan’s experience may only be surpassed by Danny Hall. Hall is a 31-year veteran in the sheriff’s office and he’s been a Prince George’s resident for the same length of time. He currently serves as a captain in the Bureau of Field Operations with his focus on child support enforcement, landlord tenant issues and civil process. He says running for this position is just a natural progression for him and not a retirement job.
“Everybody else is coming from a primary law enforcement agency,” said Hall. “I have the management experience. I have the education. I’ve been serving the citizens of Prince George’s County in this capacity for the past 31 years. I’m not county police, state police or D.C. police retired and looking for a retirement job. My whole career has been spent in the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department.”
Also entered into the race are Michael T. Gonnella of Bowie and Louis T. Wood of Cheltenham.