Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

Aziz Focuses on ‘Community’ as Prince George’s Police Chief

Malik Aziz started his new job as Prince George’s County police chief meeting with community leaders, traveling around the nearly 500-square-mile jurisdiction and even assessing the budget.

The 29-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department began his leadership post in Prince George’s on May 9 coming into a department with a pending lawsuit from Black and Latino officers while seeking to implement nearly 50 recommendations from a police reform work group and increasing trust within the community.

As of May 20, some of the crime statistics in Prince George’s include: 93 homicides last year versus 52 so far this year; 738 robberies last year and 234 this year; and 1,165 burglaries last year and 330 this year.

“What I’m looking at now is finding out what we’re doing and how we’re doing it,” Aziz said during a one-on-one interview at police headquarters in Upper Marlboro. “I’m formulating that now on paper and in my mind how it’s going to look and what I want to see. What is real engagement? What is engagement that immerses us into different segments of the community because every community requires something different?”

Aziz arrived in his new Prince George’s home with his sister and two adult children, ages 28 and 24, back in Texas. He’s also a grandfather to a grandson who calls him “Papa.”

He already knows some individuals from the law enforcement community but said he’s made connections such as signing up for membership at a local establishment. He declined to say which one but noted, “now I’m part of the fabric of the community. It shows I want to be part of the solution.”

He’s an avid sports fan, specifically the Dallas Cowboys (look out for a possible community watch party in the fall between the Washington Football Team and Cowboys).

Aziz spoke about hiring Blacks into the profession, reaching those who still don’t trust the police and being a father.

Attracting More Blacks into the Public Safety Profession

“I think that is incumbent upon all of us. It’s not just the police chief’s job,” he said. “I was talking to a roll call this morning [May 20] and I told them, ‘Each of you are the best recruiters that we have.’ They’re recruiters. They have to go out and get people to join the Prince George’s County Police Department. That means talking about this noble profession, accepting the challenges at hand and wanting to continue to evolve policing.”

“I’m talking to citizens. I’m talking to influential people. You have to say, ‘Why don’t you join the police department? It will be rewarding for you. You are the type of person with the mindset that we need in policing.’ In order for that to happen, all of us have to be in it together.”

“I accept my role. I accept my responsibility for it but I ask you to give me some partnership and responsibility when we are talking about professions. So often we say go be an engineer, an attorney, a doctor. I want people to say, ‘You should be a Prince George’s County police officer.’ That would be great for you to give back to the community.”

“Policing, on a whole, has been better than it was 30 years ago. It has continued to adapt and evolve. Every recruit class that graduates becomes the best trained, best disciplined…every class [in the police academy] gets the latest information and latest tools: de-escalation training, implicit bias, sensitivity training. That wasn’t the mindset 30 years ago. It wasn’t there,” he said.

Increasing the Community’s Trust of Police

“It takes conversations,” he said. “We have to meet people on their own ground, territory and terrain. Too often we ask people to meet us on our side. It’s really important to understand where people have been and why they feel a certain way. It’s not so different from anything I’ve seen when I was growing up. I’ve had people tell me they hate the police but like me. That speaks volume.”

“You are in a uniform and people have no good things to say, but they like you. We don’t think that the gap has lessened? We have to believe that when someone makes a comment like that. How do we get there? Make basic conversations with people.”

“We don’t always have to talk about crime and negative or bad stuff. We should be talking about things that make life go around. Things we have in common. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been really geared on the greatest football team in history and that’s the Dallas Cowboys. We get to talk about the five-time Super Bowl champions.”

“I don’t think I’ve had a conversation where that hasn’t come up. That’s an ice-breaker. We chip away at that outer core because I want people to know they can talk to me. We have to break down those barriers that exist between police and community. In between that time, we can emphasize something that helps the community. We could have a watch party and get a chance to interact with each other,” he said.

‘I’m Papa’

“My son is the oldest — he’s 28 and my daughter is 24 and I have a grandson,” he said. “My grandson is looking for me. ‘Where’s Papa. Why do you have to go so far away?’ My daughter said she’ll come see me if I get the ticket. I joke about her. My son’s ok and says, ‘I miss you, dad.'”

“It was a cry-fest [back in Texas]. The reality set in when all those boxes [were] stacking up and I was moving. She’s a year-and-a-half older. I call her my twin because we look so much alike. She misses me. She was crying like a baby. I miss them, too but I’m so busy up here that my missing comes in spurts. It’s hard to miss somebody when you’re busy all day.”

“I’m developing new extensions of the family. A lot of people here have made it feel like home. You get to talk to different people and you realize it’s not that much different. My extended family is growing and I’m meeting some really great people. The officers here remind me of the ones from Dallas. They are highly productive. All of this comes back [to] home and makes me feel good to be here,” Aziz said.

William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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