After roughly seven months without a police chief, Cottage City has selected a police department leader focused on fostering community involvement and building close partnerships with neighboring agencies.
Robert W. Patton, who has more than 30 years of law-enforcement experience — the majority of which was in Michigan, and a couple of years in Mississippi — is no newcomer to public safety in Prince George’s County. From 2007 to 2009, he served as the Capitol Heights police chief, a post he left when his contract ended.
Patton, 64, said he had not yet done an analysis of crime in Cottage City, but wants to foster “community policing,” which emphasizes officers partnering with residents to help report crime and suspicious activity.
“I like bringing citizens in to say, ‘Hey, we need your help; we can’t do this job without you,’” said Patton, who was set to be sworn in Feb. 13. “I want to work with everybody, including the business owners, to open everyone’s eyes and ears.”
After his time working in Capitol Heights, Patton said he considered returning to Mississippi to run for political office but decided to continue residing in Bowie because of the friends he had made and because his wife is studying at the University of Maryland, College Park, to become a nurse.
Capitol Heights Mayor Kito James, who was an at-large councilman when Patton was chief in the city, declined to comment on Patton’s tenure, citing a policy of not discussing former employees.
As leader of Cottage City’s five-member police force, Patton will be paid $62,000 per year, said Demetrius Givens, chairman of the town commission.
Patton replaces Chief Pablo F. Mitchell, who started in 2009 and resigned in June 2012. At the time, Mitchell said he was ready to move on but had no immediate plans. He did not return a call for comment.
Givens, who serves as liaison to the commission for the police department, said he was impressed with Patton’s commitment to community involvement and hopes to see the town’s five officers getting out of their patrol cars more often to interact with residents.
“I think community policing is important,” said Givens, a former Washington, D.C., police officer. “As a police officer, I saw its … positive effects on an environment.”
Givens said the 1.2-square-mile town of about 1,300 residents generally doesn’t have much crime. Town police responded to a total of 1,434 calls last year, according to the town’s yearly report of calls handled.
Cottage City resident Donna Hayes, 65, said she would like to see police interacting with the community more. She said the idea of partnering with neighboring police departments was also important.
“It is an excellent idea, because we are so close [to other communities] that when you cross the street you are in another community,” she said. “I think it is important that we all work together and try to make it a safer place.”