By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 22, 2010; B04
Their unit does not have a name yet, but for at least the next few months, the seven Prince George's County police officers of Haitian descent have a new duty assignment: collect donations to help the earthquake-ravaged country that many of their relatives call home.
Police officials hope that the seven will travel to Haiti in early March to join relief efforts for the hundreds of thousands who survived the quake. In the meantime, the officers will be distributing fliers, knocking on doors and talking to reporters to raise awareness in Prince George's about how dire the situation is in Haiti.
"It is unimaginable how bad it is down there," Cpl. Conrad D'Haiti, one of the officers, said at a news conference Thursday to announce the unit. "We all here want to help."
The unit will fall under the command of acting major Rex Barrett, head of the police department's Community Services Division. Barrett said it was Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton's idea: He met with the officers of Haitian descent Wednesday before temporarily reassigning them from their usual posts as patrol officers or investigators.
"He detailed them together, and I think it's incredible," Barrett said.
Five of the seven officers appeared at the news conference. They said they knew each other before the quake but have been brought closer by the disaster. They said they have spent the past several days trying to learn the whereabouts of their relatives. Some of the news they've received, often third-hand, has not been good.
Officer Diderot Alerte, who lived in Haiti for 12 years, said one of his aunts suffered a broken leg in the quake. He said other relatives have had to carry her from place to place as they struggle to survive.
"Basically, everyone's homeless and moving around," he said. "I can't get over there to help her. . . . That's why we're out here to help."
Anyone who would like to make disaster relief donations through the Prince George's police can drop off or send contributions to Police Headquarters, 7600 Barlowe Rd., Landover, Md. 20785. Checks should be made payable to FOP Lodge 89, with "Haiti" in the memo line.