Race, Public Safety Focus of Town Hall in Prince George's County

Gale Horton Gay | 5/2/2012, 10:26 a.m.

Magaw acknowledged incidents such as the one Calvo described as "making us better. Procedures are being put in place that are going to make us better."

He said that during the past 18 months, eight people in the police department have been fired and that he does not tolerate violation of the rights and trust of the community.

Magaw said the Prince George's police of 2012 is markedly different from decades ago.

"If we make a mistake, we are willing to fix it," Magaw said.

Craig pointed out the diversity of the current force and the numerous partnerships and relationships that have been established.

"I am very proud of this police department," Craig said. "I could not sit here in good conscience and listen to some of the things being said. It's not the same as in '75, '85, '95. Most complaints are not about police officers and race relations."

The audience responded with enthusiastic applause.

Ross said that with about 30 other police departments in Prince George's County, it's difficult to monitor all of them. Other municipalities' failings often reflect badly on Prince George's County police, he said.

"We have tried to make sure we are transparent," Magaw said.

Toward the end of the program, a woman interrupted the discussion and said that three years ago her son was shot multiple times by law enforcement officials who were exonerated of wrongdoing. Alsobrooks expressed sympathy for the woman's loss and said she was willing to meet with her privately. The chief said he would meet with the woman too.

Higginbotham told the crowd that the forum was a positive initiative.

"This is something unique," he said. "It's not something [that] gets done in every jurisdiction. This is very, very significant."