With much of the national attention focused on how Blacks experience unfair treatment from the police, dozens of Prince George’s County residents held a small rally to support law enforcement.
Some of the residents who stood outside the County Administration building in Upper Marlboro on Nov. 16 were members of the Police Department’s Citizen Advisory Councils. The purpose: to demand elected officials place money in the fiscal year 2016 budget previously cut during the budget process to ensure public safety services don’t falter.
“What we decided to do is send a message to elected officials to solve the impasse that they have to restore the support for our Police Department through funding,” said Charles A. Brown, president of Police Chief Mark Magaw’s Citizen Advisory Council. “Looking ahead two years, this department will have negative growth and will have difficulty in meeting the increased police services that are required.”
They showcased their support with signs that read: “Elected Officials: Restore the Public Safety Budget;” Citizens Organized for Public Safety: We support law enforcement. Thank you for your service. #PGPDStrong.”
Although homicides have decreased by 40 percent in the last five years, Magaw has said more police officers are needed in the 1,721-member department. About 2,200 officers would complement the department.
On Council’s last legislative session Tuesday, Nov. 17, it passed to send a letter to County Executive Rushern L. Baker III and release money set aside for emergencies to train a new class of police officers in the current budget.
This would allow the department to bring in those officers and replace those going into retirement.
Because council meets once in December to elect a chairman and vice chairman, the next board meeting isn’t until January.
Council rejected Baker’s proposal this summer to increase taxes by double digits with layoffs and furloughs to help fund the county school system. County approved a 4 percent increase without the layoffs and furloughs.
In addition, council required agency under Baker to put aside 2 percent from its budgets to place in a contingency fund.
Belinda Queen-Howard, assistant secretary with the county’s Democratic Central Committee District 25 office in Suitland, said more resources are needed to fully staff the District VII Police Station in Fort Washington. However, that will not happen until next year and police officers from Clinton and Oxon Hill currently cover the area.
“How can we not fully fund a police station? Sometimes we have to cut the fat in other places and there’s a lot of fat in other places in Prince George’s County,” said Queen-Howard, who also serves as a member of the department’s District III Citizen Advisory Council. “Our police officers are doing a great job. To make it better, give the department funding because public safety is so important for our kids and important for Prince George’s County to keep growing.”
In other business Nov. 17, council approved legislation to grant low-income renters 60 and older and those on 100 percent disability income to receive tax relief.
Under the legislation, the county will pay for 50 percent of a renter’s state tax credit in the form of a county supplement for those who qualify.
“The County Council continues to provide additional relief and tools for our residents, especially seniors, to maintain their residency in the County,” said Councilman Todd Turner (D-District 4) of Bowie.