Dozens of religious, community and government leaders and residents stood outside Prince George’s County Police Department headquarters Wednesday with a simple message: pray and support for officers who work to protect the community.
The prayer rally came about after an online petition circulated last week demanding Police Chief Hank Stawinski resign.
The petition, organized by the Prince George’s County Community Justice Coalition for Justice & Accountability, claims Stawinski should have fired an officer involved in an Oct. 19 traffic stop that resulted in serious injury to motorist Demonte Blake, 24.
As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, the petition had about 473 of its goal of 10,000 signatures. The petition requests County Executive Angela Alsobrooks call for Stawinski’s resignation.
Police placed the officer on administrative leave and an internal investigation continues.
Supporters of Stawinski and the police department prayed for officers and Blake’s family Wednesday.
“Our prayers are for brother Blake and his family,” said the Rev. Tony Lee of Community of Hope AME Church in Temple Hills. “We’re also praying for this Police Department. We have been at times of tragedy. We have seen this chief be a fair actor [and] moving towards accountability.”
Several residents said the department does work with the community, but more people should get involved.
“I became involved in the Citizens Police Academy that really shed a whole new light on … what police officers go through,” said Veronica Davlia of Oxon Hill. “It puts you in the shoes of what an officer [and] a split-second decision you have to make. They are actually sworn to serve and protect.”
Meanwhile, Reid Temple AME in Glenn Dale will host a town hall Monday to discuss police and community relations and moderated by Rashawn Ray, a fellow at the Brookings Institution.
“If we all come together, we know that all things work together for the good for those who love the lord and have been called according to God’s purpose,” said the Rev. Mark E. Whitlock Jr., pastor of Reid Temple. “Everyone must be given a voice. Let us have a continuous conversation to turn tragedy into triumph.”