July 8, 2016
County Executive, Prince George’s County
14741 Governor Oden Bowie Drive
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772
Dear Mr. Baker,
My name is Melissa Andrews. I live in the Perrywood community in Upper Marlboro. I have two sons, ages 8 and 5. The recent shooting of Alton Sterling has prompted me to write you.
My family has no plans to move from Prince George’s County. That means that my sons will grow up here. They will learn to drive here. Their first encounter with the police will most likely be in this county – a county that is still trying to overcome a reputation that includes a brutal police force. I have to tell you that I am terrified that my sons could be shot and killed during a stop with the police.
I do not think the recent shootings of citizens by the police are solely related to race. Prince George’s is, as you like to proudly say, the richest African American county in the United States. My sons are African American. Many of the cops who perpetuated the violence in Prince George’s County in the 80s and 90s were African American. The problem has to do, I think, with a mentality of unchecked power that seems to be prevalent in police departments across the country, which is promoted, according to many experts, because of a lack of training. (Check out this NPR report – http://www.npr.org/2016/04/14/474265676/chicago-police-department-report-highlights-dismal-state-of-police-training).
At my job, I am required to take sexual harassment training, although I have never sexually harassed anyone in my life, and anyone who knows me would tell you that’s not something you’d find me doing. All of my co-workers are required to take sexual harassment training – on a regular basis – despite the fact that, as far as I can tell, our work environment is pretty free from any sexual harassment behaviors. However, we provide no mandatory or consistent training for our police officers, who daily walk around with deadly weapons, either because we have no funds, or because the police departments think they already know how to do their jobs.
I am writing to ask you to work with the police departments in Prince George’s county to ensure that they have MANDATORY training on how to de-escalate situations, instead of using force. The NPR story I referred to above, as well as studies done on police behavior indicate that this type of training is essential if we are to reduce this madness that is seeming to overtake our country, where men and boys of color, and even women, are gunned down in what appears to be “cold blood”.
Mr. Baker – I appreciate everything that you and prior county executives have done and are doing for our county. However, all the money in the world and all of the amenities provided by the county would not be able to replace one of my sons, were he to be shot by the police.
I’d like you to know that I vote. I am also the assistant communications director at my 600+ member church in Hyattsville, and I will get those people to vote. I have quite a few friends on social media whom I will also encourage to vote. I plan to write every one of the Prince George’s county council members with this message. I will write my congressmen and women and my senators. I will write the local police departments in the county. I will write the governor. I will send op-ed pieces to the Washington Post and the Washington Times.
I do not know if you are a religious man, but there is a story in the Bible that I’d like to share with you. It’s found in Luke 18.
2…In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man.
3And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’
4For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man,
5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ (Luke 18:2-5, ESV)
I am about to become that persistent widow. Whether my elected officials respond to my request or not, they will continue to hear from me.
I know it is unlikely that you will write me back, and that’s ok. I just needed you to hear me. Look forward to another letter soon.