- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 30, 2002

Candidates for Prince George's County's two highest offices yesterday voiced support for the county's embattled police department at a forum sponsored by the county chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Four of five Democrats running for county executive were there, the glaring absence being current State's Attorney Jack B. Johnson.
"It's a sad day in Prince George's County when the highest elected law enforcement official the state's attorney does not respond to an invitation to address a gathering of law enforcement officers," said Cpl. Tim Cordero, the forum organizer for the police lodge.
State Delegate Rushern L. Baker III of Cheverly and Major Riddick of Fort Washington, former chief of staff for Gov. Parris N. Glendening, have filed the necessary papers with the Board of Elections. They and two other announced candidates, the Rev. C. Anthony Muse of Fort Washington and County Council member M.H. "Jim" Estepp of Brandywine, addressed the 100-plus people, primarily county officers and their supporters, in front of the county administration building in Upper Marlboro.
Deputy State's Attorney Mark Spencer of Cheverly and former federal prosecutor Glenn Ivey of Cheverly, both Democrats, are running to replace Mr. Johnson as state's attorney, although neither has formally filed.
Beset by charges of unnecessary and undue use of force, the county police department has endured much criticism from the county prosecutor's office. Many at yesterday's forum made direct references to Mr. Johnson's job performance.
Promising to "raise the bar of our expectations and our performance," Mr. Spencer said he pursues the top prosecutor's office out of consideration for his 4-year-old son, who aspires to be a firefighter or police officer.
"He believes police officers are good," Mr. Spencer said, adding that he wanted to reclaim that public trust.
Mr. Ivey said he wants to refocus the infighting among police and prosecutors to concentrate efforts on eliminating crime in the county.
"We need a change right there in the courthouse," Mr. Ivey said, directing attention to the building across Main Street.
Mr. Riddick said lethargy is widespread.
"The problem in Prince George's County is we've lowered our expectations and mediocrity has become the standard," he said.
Mr. Muse, pastor of the Arc of Safety Christian Church in Oxon Hill, said morale needs to be enhanced to strengthen quality of life.
"When public safety goes down, the entire county goes down," he said.
Mr. Baker, a member of the House of Delegates since 1994, spoke of improving education and public safety as efforts to provide for the common good rather than act "in the best interests of somebody's political career."
Mr. Estepp, a former county fire chief, said he wants to turn around morale in the police department, which he said is the lowest it has been in years.
"That's why I'm asking you to hold on. Don't despair. Help is on the way," he said. "I want to raise morale to an all-time high."
Cpl. Cordero called attention to the top of the County Administration Building, where County Executive Wayne K. Curry was watching from a balcony. He is prohibited by term limits from running for a third term.
"We want to thank Wayne Curry for looking down at us," Cpl. Cordero said.
FOP President Tony Walker called Mr. Johnson "an overzealous prosecutor."
Mr. Johnson, who lives in Bowie, has served two terms as the county's top prosecutor. Phone calls to Mr. Johnson's office were not returned. An aide said Tuesday the forum was on his schedule.
Some in the audience held placards stating "Jack is an embarrassment."
But the most overt message came when the forum adjourned and a Ray Charles song blared over the loud speakers: "Hit the road, Jack. And don't you come back no more."


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