Prince George’s County, Maryland, Sheriff Melvin High has died. He was 78.
High was feeling ill and checked into Washington Hospital Center and died earlier Thursday, Col. Darrin C. Palmer said during a news conference.
Palmer, who has served as the chief assistant sheriff for some 12 years, has been sworn in as sheriff until John Carr is sworn in next month.
Carr, who was High’s assistant sheriff, said in a statement that he was saddened to learn of his mentor and friend’s passing.
“As an educator, military veteran, law enforcement officer and community leader, the Sheriff set an example for devotion and duty that we can all follow,” Carr said.
Tributes and condolences poured in from all over the county, including the state’s attorney’s office, the county council and the county executive.
Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy cited High’s “exemplary career in law enforcement,” including spearheading several crime prevention efforts to keep residents safe.
“For me, Sheriff High was a supporter, an advisor and a mentor. I will miss him as a colleague in law enforcement, but I know that his body of work and good deeds will live on,” Braveboy said in a statement.
For nearly 20 years, High was a dedicated public servant, who will be remembered for his service to the community and commitment to the safety of Prince Georgians, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said in statement.
Alsobrooks, who is out of the country, was represented by Chief Administrative Officer Tara Jackson during the news conference Thursday.
Jackson called High a “dedicated public servant,” who “worked to ensure the safety and well-being of individuals and families throughout our community.”
“Sheriff High was especially involved in efforts to fight domestic violence in our community, launching the annual Purple Knights program in October during his tenure. We will also remember him for his advocacy for the men and the women of this department. He was continuously fighting on your behalf,” Jackson said.
Barry Stanton, the county’s deputy chief administrative officer for Public Safety and Homeland Security, described High as a “true professional” and a “true gentleman.”
High started his law enforcement career in 1969 in D.C., eventually attaining the rank of assistant chief of police. Before coming to Prince George’s County, he was the chief of police in Norfolk, Virginia, where Palmer said High instituted community policing.
He then served as Prince George’s County police chief for five years starting in 2003, before being first elected as the county’s sheriff in 2010.
For almost three terms as Prince George’s County sheriff, High modernized the office and focused on professional growth of the agency, training, effective service delivery and accountability, Palmer said.
A significant accomplishment during his 12-year tenure was the accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Palmer added.
High was born in Union County, Mississippi in 1944. He attended Tennessee State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree. He then attended Southeastern University, earning a master’s degree in business and public administration.
High is survived by his wife, daughter and a grandson, The Washington Post reported.
“Our thoughts and prayers are for Sheriff High’s entire family at this most difficult time, especially his beloved wife Brenda, and their daughter, Tracy,” Prince George’s County Council Chair Calvin Hawkins said in a statement.