Prince George’s County residents will elect a new state’s attorney this year, but possibly keep the sheriff for another four years.
Eight candidates for both positions presented part of their platforms Friday, May 4 during a forum at the Upper Marlboro administration building.
Mayor Tonga Turner said public safety remains one of the most important subjects for residents in the town and countywide.
“I’m in the same position as you — I’m getting to know each of [the candidates] on where they stand on all the issues,” she said to the residents in attendance. “Vote for what matters. Vote for what speaks to you and your family.”
The county’s Sheriff’s Office, which celebrated its 332nd anniversary on April 20, is one of the law enforcement agencies in Maryland, mainly serving as a protector of the courts.
One of its most high-risk duties involve serving warrants and responding to calls for domestic-violence related situations. Prince George’s ranks number one in the state for domestic-violence offenses.
Sheriff Melvin C. High, 73, seeks his third consecutive four-year term, but has five opponents in the race: Deputy Sheriff Kendal Wade, Dave Grogan, Sylvester Jones, Anthony Ayers Sr. and Percy Reeder Sr.
High laid out his plans if re-elected, such as equipping many of his deputies with body cameras by next year, instituting a mentoring program for middle school students and organizing coffee clubs and other meetings with citizen groups.
“What we are hearing [Friday] are things your state and your county and your sheriff’s department are already working on and are doing,” he said.
Wade wants to incorporate a younger and fresher vision for the office. For instance, he proposed to create a domestic violence registry that’s similar to a sex offender registry.
According to a video he released, “This epidemic is option times treated with a reactive response often that a proactive approach.”
“We can’t take the old ways of policing and apply them to the new issues of today,” he said Friday.
Grogan, a retired U.S. Marshal and Marine veteran, also said the office must adapt to 21st-century policing because High “represents the past.”
If elected, Grogan said he would immediately investigate shootings when an unarmed resident is fatally shot.
“Throughout my tenure, I have never fired my weapon at anyone,” he said. “When there’s a mistake by a law enforcement officer, we recognize there’s a mistake and do everything we can to ensure the community this is not going to be a common practice.”
Jones, a retired Army veteran and former assistant director with U.S. Marshal’s Service, said training and educating residents will help increase trust between the sheriff office and community.
He hosted a domestic violence discussion Wednesday, May 9 at Laurel Boys and Girls Club.
“I believe in town halls. … Let’s talk about how to get things done,” Jones said. “We can educate and hear from the community on what [its] concerns are.”
Ayers, a retired Prince George’s police officer, said collaboration with the state’s attorney, social service agencies, schools and community organizations makes people’s live better.
Ayers, also a former Capitol Heights police chief, received credit for “Unity in the Community” parade and festival in the town to bridge the gap between local law enforcement agencies and residents.
“We can’t do this by ourselves,” he said. “We have to work as a group.”
County’s Top Prosecutor
The state’s attorney’s office will have a new person at the helm to oversee law to protect nearly one million Prince George’s residents.
That’s because Angela Alsobrooks will run for the county executive’s position that will be vacated by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, who’s term-limited and is running for governor.
The three state’s attorney candidates — Aisha Braveboy, Mike Lyles and state Sen. Victor Ramirez — all said Friday that Alsobrooks has done a good job. However, more can be done.
Braveboy, a former state delegate, would ensure the office does more collaboration with housing and social service agencies to provide transitional housing for domestic violence victims.
Lyles, director of the county’s Human Relations Commission, said he would establish a grading system in the office so salaries are on par with neighboring jurisdictions such as Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties.
Ramirez, a practicing attorney who’s managed his own law office since 2001, said maintaining solid, professional relationships between the state’s attorney and county executive offices help, especially when it comes to budgets.
They also responded to a question about their stance on legalized marijuana.
In Maryland, lawmakers approved medical marijuana several years ago. It remains illegal for recreational use.
All three candidates support laws to decriminalize marijuana, but they expanded upon on its uses.
Braveboy supports medical marijuana, but not recreationally because “I don’t believe making drugs more available at this time … is a good thing for our young people.”
“I don’t support legalized marijuana until the people of this country decide it should be removed [as] a Class 1 felony on the federal level,” Lyles said. “It presents too many problems for us.”
“It may be unpopular right now, but the same thing was said about alcohol,” he said. “If we have a way to control it, I think we should.”
Early voting for the primary election runs June 14-21. Election day is June 26.