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Starring Role in ABC Drama Leaves Pr. George's Fuming

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On "Commander in Chief," from left, Geena Davis as President Mackenzie Allen, Harry Lennix as Chief of Staff Jim Gardner and Montae Russell as Bobo Highsmith, whose wife on the show was killed in Prince George's County. (By Gale Adler -- Abc Entertainment)

Prince George's was a majority-white and partly rural county until African Americans began moving there in large numbers in the 1970s and '80s. By 1990, the county had become majority black and solidly suburban.

The county is the nation's most affluent majority-black county. But despite its progress over the past couple of decades, Prince George's has long been sensitive about its image and about being compared with more affluent majority-white suburbs such as Montgomery and Fairfax counties, which have less crime.

"It touched a lot of buttons -- all the issues around community, racial identity, ethnic identity," Shapiro said of the episode. "It threw gasoline on those fires at once."

Another of the show's insults, critics said, was its references to the county by its initials, P.G. Some residents argue that Prince George's should not be referred to by its initials because no other county is. A state senator once corrected basketball star Earvin "Magic" Johnson during a news conference when he called the county P.G.

"The people in this county know that when other people say it, it's meant as a put-down," Taylor said.

In one scene in the episode, the fictional governor of Maryland, Stan Preston, asks the president why she is paying so much attention to Prince George's. She responds: "We might as well start with the community with one of the fastest-growing crime rates in the country."

It was unclear whether she was referring to Prince George's as a whole or to Hyattsville. It was also not clear whether she meant violent crime, such as homicides and carjackings, or overall crime, which would include trespassing and littering.

Last year, overall crime was down 0.7 percent compared with the previous year, and violent crime was up 12.5 percent.

In 2005, the county logged its highest homicide total ever, 173. Also, carjackings were up 47 percent, and robberies increased by 24 percent.

This year, homicides have dropped. Last year at this time, there were 49 killings; this year there have been 34.

Hyattsville has had close to a 20 percent reduction in crime over the past decade, said the city's police chief, Douglas K. Holland. Last year, there were three homicides. There has been one this year.

Shapiro said television writers and producers have a right to do what they do. "But we have a right to be angry at their use of stereotypes," he said.

Staff writer John Maynard contributed to this report.


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