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Posted at 11:01 AM ET, 10/25/2012

Essay: Death of Pr. George’s police officer prompts reflection on her family’s men in blue

When Kevin Donnell Bowden, the 28-year-old Prince George’s
Kevin Bowden was a six-year veteran with the Prince George's County police. (Prince George's County police)
police officer who died in a traffic accident last week, is laid to rest Saturday, I hope his family will be comforted knowing his six years on the police force were appreciated by many.

Bowden died Oct. 19, when a marked cruiser he was driving home collided with a sport-utility vehicle at Branch Avenue and Surratts Road, according to reports. Police say he was not wearing a seat belt. He was taken to Southern Maryland Hospital Center in Clinton, where he was pronounced dead. According to a Washington Post report, dozens of officers and others formed a line and gave a salute as Bowden’s body was taken from the hospital to an ambulance. He was the second Prince George’s police officer to die in an auto accident in a month.

Bowden was the youngest of four children and the father of three. Colleagues described him “steady and funny,” according to the Post article. “He was one of those officers who loved his job,”said George Nader, his Oxon Hill shift commander. Reading of Bowden’s life and death prompted me to call my baby brother, Hakim Tate, 30, who puts his life on the line everyday as a police officer in the District.

My brother, who joined the force almost nine years ago, loves his job. He likes correcting wrongs and ensuring safety, he told me. Yes the risks are high, and police officers incur considerable resentment from some, as their blue uniforms make them easy targets for anti-authority, anti-government resentment. But the rewards are greater for those who love their job.

“I love it,” Hakim said. “I love that I can affect change in communities, that I can help create a better quality of life. When I lock somebody up . . . that’s taking them away from the community, moving one step closer to making that environment safe for the people who live there.”

Hakim joined the force to take care of himself and his daughter. He later graduated from the University of Maryland University College with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and sociology. But his policing philosophy harkens back to one of his favorite TV classics, “The Andy Griffith Show.” He knocks on doors and develops relationships in the district where he’s assigned.

“We’re community servants. Knowing who belongs where and knowing what their needs are is important,” Hakim said of his community-policing approach. “If you don’t know what their needs are, how can you serve them?”

Hakim thinks we take a lot for granted when it comes to the value we place on policing. “I think we lose sight of the fact that it’s our law enforcement agencies that create safe environments,” he said. “Going to work, knowing that your home is protected from burglaries, that’s priceless.”

I didn’t think much of the risks and resentments police face until I began getting to know a Prince George’s police officer who, shortly before retiring, would become my husband . Meeting his friends in the department, spending time with their families at social functions, gave me a different perspective of the men and women in blue. I wish more people in the community could get to know them socially. With that, public cooperation might increase, leading to better policing and safer communities.

I asked my brother what he would tell Bowden’s family.

“My message to his family would be that his mission as a police officer was to provide safety and a sense of safety,” Hakim said. “He did his job just by being present.”

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III (D) had a message for the friends and family of Bowden, as well.

“The men and women of our public safety community face life threatening circumstances every day. They put their lives on the line so that we feel safe in our homes and communities,” Baker said in a prepared statement. “I ask every resident of Prince George’s County, the State, and region to keep Officer Bowden’s family and our law enforcement community in your thoughts and prayers.”

Bowden will be memorialized Saturday at 11 a.m. at St. Stephens Baptist Church, 5757 Temple Hill Road, Temple Hills. A first visitation will be held Friday at 8 p.m. at Lee Funeral Home in Clinton; a second visitation will precede the funeral Saturday morning at the church.

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