Pr. George’s Baker: To avoid Ferguson, officials must build trust

Images of unrest after the police-involved shooting that ended the life of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo. last week prompted Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III to launch a discussion with his senior executive staff, Baker told NewsChannel 8′s NewsTalk program with Bruce DePuyt on Tuesday.

Baker said he told his aides that he considered the fatal shooting of Michael Brown a catalyst, which sparked a powder keg of dissatisfaction among residents of the mostly black St. Louis suburb. The reaction stems from a overall “lack of confidence that the government can respond adequately to challenges,” Baker told DePuyt. And with each failure, the tension builds.

What is happening in Ferguson should be a learning opportunity for leaders across of the country, said Baker, who is president of the County Executives of America. He said municipal and county governments have to work to address “quality of life” issues in their most challenged communities, building trust before there is a crisis.

“This is exactly why we have our TNI,” Baker recalled telling his aides, a reference to his prized Transforming Neighborhoods Program. The program identified six neighborhoods in Prince George’s where “government hasn’t always worked where it should have worked,” and targeted new resources for those communities.

“You start working on [these issues] before a volatile situation happens,” Baker said.

Arelis Hernández covers Prince George’s County as part of The Washington Post's local staff.
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