By Reginald Williams,
Special to the AFRO
Melvin C. High, Prince George’s County Sheriff, died unexpectedly on Nov. 17. Sheriff High was 78 years old and he was due to retire. Feeling ill, the Union County, Miss. native died shortly after driving himself to the Washington Hospital Center.
“We are extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Sheriff Melvin High. Sheriff High has been a dedicated public servant to the residents of Prince George’s County for nearly 20 years and will be remembered for his service to our community and commitment to the safety of Prince Georgians,” said County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.
Sworn in as Sheriff on Dec. 7, 2010, Sheriff High was responsible for leading a law enforcement staff of more than 300 deputies and citizens in providing safety and protection for the citizens of Prince George’s County. Beyond his duties as a law enforcement officer, Sheriff High was visible throughout the county, making his presence felt amongst youth and community organizations.
“We couldn’t have a more humble, unassuming, and compassionate servant leader of our law enforcement community than Sheriff High,” explained Jerrod Mustaf, retired NBA player and executive director of the Take Charge Juvenile Diversion Program. “He epitomized community policing—always out in the County meeting and greeting the citizens. I last saw him last year at the University of Maryland versus Howard football game. He asked how my program was, and said he was checking in on me. He was so humble.”
Tasked 19 years ago to confirm Sheriff High as the then Chief of Police for Prince George’s County, State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy was familiar with Sheriff High’s exemplary law enforcement career.
“For me, Sheriff High was a supporter, an adviser, and a mentor,” explained Braveboy. “I will miss him as a colleague in law enforcement, but I know that his body of work and good deeds will live on.”
Sheriff High embarked upon his illustrious career in 1969 as a patrol officer for the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). Although a sheriff, he was infectiously referred to as “Chief High” because he retired from the MPD in 1993 as the Associate Chief. He served as Police Chief for Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD) for five years and was elected as the first African-American chief for the city of Norfolk, Va.
During his tenure of over 50 years, Sheriff High’s servant leadership was encompassing. He launched numerous community and crime prevention strategies, served as an executive committee member on several community involvement initiatives, and received many awards, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Life Institute’s “Real Dream” award. He implemented former President Bill Clinton’s security details for his first presidential inauguration.
Sheriff High was a member of NOBLE (National Association of Black Law Enforcement Executives), IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police), the Association of FBI National Academy Graduates, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, the Hampton Roads Chiefs of Police Association, the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association and the Maryland and National Sheriffs’ Associations.
Sheriff High is survived by his wife, Brenda, and his daughter Tracy.
Reginald Williams is the author of “A Marginalized Voice: Devalued, Dismissed, Disenfranchised & Demonized.” Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit amarginalizedvoice.com for more information.
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