Thursday, September 23, 2010

REACHING OVER YELLOW TAPE

REACHING OVER YELLOW TAPE: "
New District 1 Commander says repairing relationships a top priority

The new District 1 police commander wants students who have fallen victim to crime in College Park to know: He has felt their pain.


Almost 20 years ago, when Maj. Robert Liberati was off-duty for a family function, he saw his father get mugged at a gas station in Philadelphia. He leapt to intervene. The scuffle that ensued left Liberati bruised up, his brand new suit shredded. His father suffered injuries as well, some of which he will never recover from.

As the now-commander of Prince George's County's District 1 wrestled with his father's assailant in broad daylight, a crowd of people gathered at the South Philadelphia intersection to observe the fracas. And they weren't exactly pulling for Liberati.

"They weren't a lawful crowd," he said. "They were cheering the bad guy on."

In the end, he came out on top - his opponent was arrested and ultimately spent more than a year in prison.

Now Liberati, who started his newest position in May, looks to take on a different kind of fight. After some county police officers were videotaped striking students with nightsticks following a Terrapin basketball victory in March, the department's image took a beating that he said must be repaired.

"That situation was just bad all around. It was bad for us; it was bad for students; it was bad for the university. And I don't think it portrayed things the way they are," he said.

With that in mind, Liberati said that his goal, for the duration of his commandership, will be to repair fragile relationships.

Liberati, 48, has always believed in the virtues of law enforcement. Ever since he was young, Liberati knew he where he would end up.

Born in Philadelphia, Liberati spent the majority of his childhood in Prince George's County, where he will celebrate his 25th year as a member of the county police force next month.

When he first expressed interest in joining the ranks, Liberati said his family was less than thrilled. Instead, he earned an accounting degree from this university. His father, a certified public accountant, was hopeful Liberati would continue in that profession.

Instead, over the years, Liberati has worked in six major roles for county police. Based on his first months as commander, he said his latest position is panning out to be the most difficult.

Heading District 1 means fielding 4,800 calls per week. It means leading a staff in the most concentrated district of the 32nd largest police department in the country, in the most crime-ridden county in the state. It means working 60-70 hours a week and being on-call 24/7, all while attempting to protect the more than 26,000 undergraduate students at the state's flagship university, many of whom have their doubts about county police.

Looking to overcome that, Liberati, along with University Police, organized a welcome night earlier this month for students and officers to interact in a non-enforcement environment. He also has plans for a bonfire on the campus, which he hopes will organize the chaos after big athletic wins. His top priorities are that students are safe and businesses are not damaged, he said.

Liberati's colleagues point to his approachability as the one thing that sets him apart from other officers on the force.

"He is very sensitive to the perception that students have of the police department," University Police Chief David Mitchell said. "He is committed to improving that."

At the same time he works to improve the image of police, Liberati said he also wants to help students avoid a negative image.

"We want the reputation of the University of Maryland to be strong. It helps the community; it helps the county; it helps the state," he said. "It helps bring money in."

Mitchell called Liberati an "outreach specialist" in these efforts and said his laid-back nature comes from years of experience.

"[As a] senior law enforcement official, he's just as genuine there as he is in public. What you see is what you get," Mitchell added. "As for his laid back nature, that's clearly something that comes with experience on the job. He is one of the most experienced members on the county police force."

Liberati has made over 200 criminal arrests, earned acclaim for his efforts against driving under the influence, developed a sex offenders registry that easily organized offenders for civilians to access, closed a string of forgeries that led to $9,000 in losses and, most recently, utilized a $10 million grant to help make police data available portably.

Liberati said every police officer ultimately looks back at their days on the street as those they remember most fondly.

"If I was told today, ‘Liberati you're going to be retired next month,' I think I would ask the chief if I could just go back on the street for the last couple weeks," he said. "Just to end it where I started."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Police Make Arrest in Citizen Robbery on Baltimore Avenue


Prince George’s County, Maryland…The Prince George’s County Police Department’s District I Investigative section has made an arrest in connection to a citizen robbery that occurred in College Park, Maryland.

On August 8, 2010 at approximately 12:19 a.m., patrol officers responded to the 7200 block of Baltimore Avenue for the report of a robbery.  When patrol officers arrived, they learned that three suspects had approached the victims, two of the suspects displayed handguns and demanded their money.  The victims complied with the suspects’ demands and gave them money and property.  After taking the items, the suspects fled the area on foot.

After pictures were displayed during a Channel 5 Fox News broadcast, Detectives were able to develop 21 year-old Andrew Hillocks as a suspect.  A warrant was obtained and Hillocks turned himself in for questioning by Detectives. Hillocks has been remanded to the custody of the Department of Corrections.

Anyone with additional information about this case is asked to call the Prince George’s County Police Department’s District I Investigative Section at (301) 699-2601. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sixty Four (64) New Officers Added to the Prince George’s County Police Department

Prince George’s County, Maryland…Prince George’s County Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton joined other county public safety officials last night to host the graduation of sixty-seven (67) graduates from the Training and Education Division’s Police Academy Session #117.  The ceremony was held at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden Worship Center.  The graduating class included sixty-four (64) new County police officers and three (3) officers joining the ranks of the Baltimore City Schools Police Force.
Prince George's County Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton told recruits, “Graduates, you are now part of a group that is the most visible image of law and order – uniformed police officers. Continue to give the best in everything you do.  Perform your duties with professionalism, compassion, and enthusiasm.  Our department operates from a community-based perspective, and it is essential to those we serve that we truly listen to and actively participate in the community.  As you take your oath this evening, be assured that you are equipped with the tools necessary to fulfill your commitment and carry out our mission with unwavering strength and courage.”  


Awards to Session 117 graduates for outstanding achievement and performance were made to the following graduates:
Chief’s Leadership Award
Officer Paul E. Gambardella – Prince George’s County Police Department
Sergeant Joseph K. Brown Award for the Top Scholastic Achiever 
Officer Simon B. Vanleuven- Prince George’s County Police Department

Rodney G. Chaney Award for Outstanding Student Officer 
Officer Ikemefuna C. Ejimnkeonye - Prince George’s County Police
Department
Steven F. Gaughan Memorial Award for Achievement in Criminal Law Award    Officer Jenna C. Deacon - Prince George’s County Police Department
 
Sergeant Robert J. Talbert Memorial Award for Physical Fitness (Male/Female)
Female - Officer Maria S. Ferguson - Prince George’s County Police Department
Male - Officer James K. McMillan Jr. - Prince George’s County Police Department

For further information, contact the Prince George’s County Police Department’s Press Information Office at 301-772-4710.



All Photos courtesy of the Prince George's County Police Department

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Keeping the Public Informed















Major Andy Ellis, Commander, Public Affairs Division


One department’s quest to disseminate accurate & timely information

The Prince George’s County (Md.) Police Department deals with a broad range of criminal activity, ranging from the extremely violent, which includes the murders of police officers, armed robberies and gang victimization, to less harmful incidents, such as nuisance crimes and aggravated car thefts. Although crime has declined nationwide, criminal activity is by no means lacking in this urban community that surrounds Washington, D.C., and it keeps both police and prosecutors working at a demanding pace.

A Model for Sharing Information
Regardless of the crime and its impact, this police department is a strong believer in disseminating news accurately and consistently to the public. The press office operates within the public affairs division. This division is comprised of 10 sworn officers and seven civilians, and operates under the leadership of Major Andrew Ellis, who has been a part of the press office since 1998. Better known as “Andy” to his colleagues and friends, Major Ellis has gained the respect of his current chief, Roberto Hylton, and of past chiefs as well. He’s been with the department for 21 years and recently received his law degree.
The press office operates seven days per week and is staffed 24 hours a day, as the most serious cases are frequently ones that occur during off duty hours. “Our press officers work weekends and midnight shifts,” says Major Ellis. His press officers are oftentimes the only government spokespersons on duty, and they wind up fielding calls for other departments (e.g., the fire department, public works).
Major Ellis emphasizes that the public is able to get timely information from the source. “If we don’t give it out, reporters will get it from somewhere else, and it won’t be as reliable. The public benefits. I try to get to them to look at what information is in the public interest for us to release,” he says.
According to Major Ellis, reporters are frequently perceived as pushy or conniving but, in actuality, they are simply trying to meet the demands of the public. “We try not to get too caught up in the attitude of the reporter. Trust is huge. We have to trust a reporter is going to get it right. We have little to no control over what a print reporter will print,” he says.
Developing a Positive Relationship with the Media
By speaking with reporters, looking at the stories they write and holding the local media accountable, trust is developed. It is a two-way street that involves trusting that the reporter will get it right, and vice versa. Press officers can remind reporters about the code of ethics, send them information through email or have a witness present when speaking with a reporter. “It’s important for anyone to know you have to be truthful and make sure the information is given in proper context and make sure the reporter understands. I’ve worked with some reporters who didn’t characterize the story right. I can’t tell them I won’t talk to them. You have to work very hard to be clear in your communication and get it right the first time,” Ellis says.                
Unlike some police departments, Prince George’s County publishes the names of officers involved in shoot-outs. “The police department believes it’s in the public interest when a police officer, who is a public agent entrusted with the authority to make an arrest and actually use deadly force…that the public should know the identity of that officer,” Ellis said. If there is a negative story in play, the press officer has to get out in front of it. “It is better to take the hits all at once than to spread them out over the course of a week or two,” he asserts.
With high profile cases, the phone lines are constantly ringing as local and national reporters vie for time, and the situation can be chaotic. During these occasions, it’s all hands on deck. “You have to fight the urge to shut down,” he says. “Reporters will get the information elsewhere if you do, and it won’t be as reliable.” The stress level is high when dealing with these types of cases. The requests for information come in so quickly that there is no second chance to get the information right. “You have to be fast and accurate,” he says. 
The press operation of the police department is constantly in motion. It utilizes various modalities to spread its message and provide other pertinent information of vital concern to the public through news alerts. Other avenues utilized are Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and blogs. In addition, for the past 20 years, the department issues news clips on a daily basis that highlight what is occurring in the region. “The purpose is to give everyone in the department a quick reference on what’s being said in all news organizations in the area,” Ellis says. 

In Sum
A police department is only one source out of many that a reporter can utilize. If a law enforcement agency refuses to speak to the press, the most accurate information may not be conveyed but the story will still be written. Consequently, it is wise for police departments to establish constructive working relationships with the press and have individuals in place who are well versed in both effective oral and written communication skills coupled with law enforcement experience. “The most important thing we look for is one who has street experience as a police officer,” Ellis says.
The Prince George’s County Police Department strives to be a transparent agency that keeps the public aware of the nature and frequency of crime and law enforcement activities in their communities. Through their effective and public approach with press information, Major Ellis and those who serve under him in the public affairs division, demonstrate a successful model that accentuates effective police/press relations and benefits police/community ties in their jurisdiction.   
Article from Law Officer.com
 Written by Karen Bune 
Photo courtesy of the Prince George's County Police Department

Suspect wanted in M& T Bank Robbery

Prince George's County Police are currently investigating  a bank robbery at the M&T Bank located in the 4500 block of Knox Road in College Park.

On September 16, 2010, at approximately 12:22 p.m., a suspect entered the M&T Bank posing as a customer. Once inside he approached the teller, displayed a handgun and demanded money.  The victim complied and the suspect fled with an undetermined amount of money.  The victim was not hurt during the incident.


The suspect is described as a black male with a light complexion, 25-35 years of age, 120-130 pounds, close cut hair, thin mustache, red cap, Blue polo shirt with a  broad white stripe with a # 2 on the front of the shirt,and blue jeans.







Anyone with information about the suspect is urged to call the Prince George's County Police Department's Robber Unit at 301-772-4905. Callers wishing to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers at 1-866-411- TIPS (8477) or test "PGPD plus your message" to CRIMES (274637) on your cell phone or go to http://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/police/ and submit a tip online.





Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Training and Education Division Announce the Graduation of Session 117

Prince George’s County, Maryland…Prince George’s County Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton and Major David C. Morris, Commander of the Training and Education Division, are proud to announce the graduation of sixty-seven (67) recruits from the Prince George’s County Police Department’s Basic Training Session #117. Sixty-four (64) of the recruits will join the Prince George’s County Police Department and three (3) will join the Baltimore City Public Schools Police Force.



Who:       Prince George’s County Executive, Jack B. Johnson
               Acting Chief Administrative Officer, Ralph E. Moultrie
               Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Public Safety/Director of Homeland
               Security, Mr. Vernon R. Herron
               Prince George's County Police Chief, Roberto L. Hylton
               Baltimore City Public Schools Police Chief, Marshall T. Goodwin

When:      Thursday, September 16, 2010


Time:        5:00 p.m.


Where:     First Baptist Church of Glenarden Worship Center
                600 Watkins Park Drive
                Upper Marlboro, MD 20774

             
Members of the community and the media are invited to attend. For more information, call the Prince George’s County Police Department’s Press Information Office at (301) 772-4710.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Identity of Suspect Sought in Multiple Commercial Armed Robberies

Prince George’s County, Maryland…The Prince George’s County Police Department’s Robbery Unit is seeking the public’s assistance in identifying an individual wanted in connection with armed robberies at a Baskin & Robbins and a T-Mobile store.

The most recent occurred on September 9, 2010 at 3:00 p.m. when a suspect walked into a Baskin & Robbins located in the 11600 block of Beltsville Drive in Beltsville, Maryland posing as a customer. Once inside, the suspect walked behind the counter, displayed a black handgun, and demanded money from the victim. The victim complied and gave the suspect an undetermined amount of money. The suspect fled the scene on foot.

Police believe this same suspect is also responsible for an armed robbery at a T-Mobile store located in the 8900 block of 62nd Avenue in Berwyn Heights, Maryland. On September 3, 2010 at approximately 12:15 p.m., the suspect walked into the T-Mobile store posing as a customer. Once inside, the suspect displayed a handgun and demanded money from the victim. The victim complied and gave the suspect an undetermined amount of money. The suspect fled the scene on foot.

The suspect is described as a black male between the ages of 28-30 years-old and approximately 5’10” tall. The suspect was last seen wearing a camouflaged baseball cap, white T-shirt, black pants, and was armed with a black handgun.

Anyone with information about the suspect is urged to call the Prince George’s County Police Department’s Robbery Unit at 301-772-4905. Callers wishing to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477) or text “PGPD plus your message” to CRIMES (274637) on your cell phone or go to http://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/police/ and submit a tip online. Surveillance camera photos of the suspect are attached.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Police Investigate Homicide on Central Avenue


Prince George’s County, Maryland…The Prince George’s County Police Department’s Homicide Unit is investigating a shooting that left a juvenile dead yesterday evening in Capitol Heights, Maryland.

On September 7, 2010 approximately 9:00 p.m., patrol officers responded to the 6800 block of Central Avenue in Capitol Heights, Maryland for a report of a shooting.  When officers arrived, they discovered 15 year-old Justin Pannell of the 200 block of Daimler Drive in Capitol Heights, Maryland, suffering from gunshot wounds.  Pannell was transported to a local hospital to be treated for his injuries.  Pannell succumbed to his injuries and was later pronounced dead this afternoon, September 8, 2010.  Detectives are working to identify a suspect(s) and establish a motive in this case. 

Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the Prince George’s County Police Department’s Homicide Unit at (301) 772-4925.  Callers wishing to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers at 1-866-411 TIPS (8477) or text “PGPD plus your message” to CRIMES (274637) on your cell phone or go to http://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/police/ and submit a tip online.

Friday, September 3, 2010

PGPD Establishes Successful Partnerships during "Welcome Back to College Park Night"


Prince George’s County, Maryland…Prince George’s County Police Major Robert Liberati, Commander District I, announced partnerships with the University of Maryland Student Government Association, the University of Maryland Police Department, the City of College Park and the Downtown College Park Merchants’ Association, to assist with University of Maryland students’ return to College Park for the 2010 school year. The event established relationships between the students, law enforcement agencies and businesses in the College Park area.


The “Welcome Back to College Park Night”, featured entertainment from the Prince George’s County Police Rhythm and Blues Band and the PAL Ambassador Basketball team who participated in a 3-on-3 tournament with students. Students were provided with safety tips from various law enforcement officials. Gifts and prizes were also given by the Downtown College Park Merchants’ Association during the event.

“The Welcome Back to College Park Night” event was a unique experience in which the police officers, students and the community met, enjoyed some activities, and discussed our relationship,” said Major Liberati.

For more information about the “Welcome Back to College Park Night” event, contact the Prince George’s County Press Information Office at 301-772-4710.

Photos Courtesy of the Prince George's County Police Department

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

(Reminder) PGPD to Participate in “Welcome Back Night” in College Park

Prince George’s County, Maryland…The Prince George’s County Police Department will be participating in the “Welcome Back Night” in College Park. The Department will be partnering with the University of Maryland Police Department, the University of Maryland Student Government Association, the City of College Park and the Downtown College Park Merchants Association, in this event as well as supporting in other safe activities for University of Maryland students. The “Welcome Back Night” will feature entertainment from the Prince George’s County Police Rhythm in Blues band, activities, and gifts from the Downtown College Park Merchant’s Association. University of Maryland students, members of the community and the media are invited to attend.

Who: Major Robert Liberati, Commander
District I, Command Staff

When: Thursday, September 2, 2010

Time: 5:00 – 8:00 PM

Where: College Park City Hall
4500 Knox Road
College Park, Maryland 20740

For more information, call the Prince George’s County Police Department’s Press Information Office at (301) 772-4710.