Prince George's County police officers, who walked off the job Monday to protest what they said was a lack of community support for police work, have been deluged with calls and letters of support and encouragement this week, a police spokesman said yesterday.
Since Mondy, when police officers stayed home to protest the verdict in the Terrence Johnson case, the department has received more than 700 phoe calls and nearly 100 letters - virtually all of them from Prince George's residents - expressing support for the police and outrage at the verdict.
Johnson, 16, was found innocent Saturday of murder in the shooting deaths last summer of two county police officers. He was found guilty of two lesser charges - voluntary manslaughter and the illegal use of a handgun, but the verdict infuriated many officers, who said it showed that their lives were not worth anything.
"I don't think that jury is representative of the people of this county," police union president Laney Hester said Monday. "I think the silent majority in this county believes in its police department."
Police spokesman John Hoxie said that in addition to the telephone calls and letters of support some citizens have simply walked into police stations to tell the police that they support them.
"I think the people of the community have seen a true change in this department the last few years and that's what they are expressing," Chief John W. Rhoads said yesterday. "They know this is not 1968. They know what the statistics for 1978 say about this department.
"And they know that this family needs expressions of caring just like any other family does at a time when it has experienced a loss. I think people are just trying to say to the men on this department, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry it happened."
In the meantime, Johnson, who was sent to the county detention center after the verdict Saturday, has been moved to the Calvert County Detention center where he will remain in isolation until he is sentenced May 3.
Johnson was moved after county corrections director Weldon McPhail recommened to Judge Jacob S. Levin on Monday that he be transferred "in his best interests."
Although the judge said yesterday he had been given no indication by McPhail that Johnson was in any danger, corrections department sources said Johnson had been "razzed," by a number of prisoners when he was brought in Saturday.
Johnson's attorney, R. Kenneth Mundy, said he had no problem with the move and had consulted with Johnson's mother, who also had no complaint once the judge assured her that she could see her son daily.
Mundy was skeptical and the community support shown for the police since the verdict. "I think a lot of people in Prince George's County are scared and they want to make sure the police do their job. One way of making sure they do their job is to tell them they support them.
One member of the county branch of the NAACP was more critical than Mundy. "What the police did on Monday was blackmail," he said. "They said "tell us we're wonderful, or we won't do our job. So everyone's telling them they're wonderful."
Hester took the opposite viewpoint, "I think a lot of people in this county thought the evidence was so overwhelming that they didn't have to say anything to support the police. They thought the courts would take care of things.
"Now that the courts haven't taken care of things they want it known that they do support the police. And they want it known that they're sorry about what happened-the shootings and the verdict.