Governor Hogan Speaks at Memorial Service for Prince George’s County Sheriff Melvin C. High

November 30, 2022

Governor Hogan delivered remarks at the memorial service for Prince George’s County Sheriff Melvin C. High.

Following are the governor’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:

It is an honor to be back home in Prince George’s County and to have this opportunity, on behalf of all the people of Maryland, to pay tribute to the life, the memory, and the legacy of Sheriff Melvin High.

I want to begin by extending my deepest sympathies to Sheriff High’s family—to his wife, Brenda, his daughter, Tracy, and his grandson, Christian—to his brothers and sisters in the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department, and to all those who loved him.

A “fixture in the region” with an “illustrious career”—a “servant leader” and “mentor”—a “true professional” and a “true gentleman.” These are just some of the ways that Sheriff High has been lovingly described over the past few weeks. He wasn’t just respected—Melvin was revered, and he was beloved all throughout the DMV over the course of an incredible life of service, which spanned more than five decades.

Born in Mississippi in 1944, Melvin received his bachelor’s degree at Tennessee State University before joining the Marines and serving in Vietnam. In 1969, he joined the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., eventually rising to the rank of Assistant Chief of Police, which placed him second in command and led to such notable achievements as handling the security arrangements for the first inauguration of President Clinton. He later became the Chief of Police in Norfolk, Virginia—the first African American to ever hold that office—where he is credited with introducing community policing.

In 2003, Melvin became the Chief of Police here in Prince George’s County during a particularly challenging time and made it his mission to restore trust within the local community.

Then in 2019, Melvin was elected to serve as Sheriff of Prince George’s County. He would be re-elected twice and hold that post for 12 years, during which Sheriff High mentored younger deputies, launched innovative crime prevention strategies, received countless community honors and awards, and was often called upon to provide guidance and best practices to law enforcement officials across the nation.

Sheriff High truly put his whole self into his work. It was his calling, his passion. His humility, compassion, and dedication were matched only by his commitment to leaving the agency he was elected to serve better than he found it. In that, he was undoubtedly successful.

He let his work speak for itself, and the proof can be seen here today. It is evident in the caliber of the men and women who served alongside him and evident in the agency he leaves behind, which he spent 12 years modernizing for future generations.

To his brothers and sisters in the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department, I ask that each of you let your lives and your actions carry on the goodness and selfless service that marked Sheriff High’s life. And to his family and friends, I pray that you find comfort and strength knowing that Sheriff Melvin High will not ever be forgotten.

On behalf of all the people of a proud and grateful state, we say farewell, thank you, and may he rest in peace.

May God bless and watch over his family, the men and women of the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department, and all of our law enforcement officers and first responders.

Melvin C. High is the elected Sheriff for Prince George’s County, Maryland. He was sworn in as Sheriff on December 7, 2010. As Sheriff, he is responsible for leading, managing and commanding more than 300 deputies and civilians in safety and crime prevention efforts to protect and serve the citizens of Prince George’s County.

Career/Experience – Preceding his service as Sheriff, Melvin High served as the appointed Chief of Police for Prince George’s County. He was appointed to this position and served from 2003 through 2008. In this capacity, he led the Nation’s 32nd largest local Law Enforcement Agency in the delivery of basic law enforcement services to a Metropolitan County of nearly 900,000 residents and served as the principal advisor to the County Executive on public safety.

Prior to joining the Prince George’s County Police Department, Sheriff High served as Chief of Police for the city of Norfolk, Virginia. During his ten year tenure, Sheriff High developed Norfolk’s first community policing initiative, PACE (Police Assisted Community Enforcement), which resulted in crime reduction each year of his administration except 1995.

Sheriff High also introduced crime prevention strategies such as CRO (Community Resource Officers), SRO (School Resource Officers), Police Cadets, mobile office programs, and the expansion of tactical crime prevention efforts. He also revised recruitment and retention strategies that brought the Department to full staffing, and increased the number of women, African-Americans and civilian professional staff. Chief High raised the educational levels of the Department, with a number of members holding master and doctoral degrees.

From 1969 until 1993, Sheriff High was a member of the Metropolitan Police Department, Washington, D.C., where he retired as Assistant Chief of Police, and second in command. As the Field Operations Officer in Washington, Sheriff High was responsible for citywide crime prevention, criminal investigations, and the safe management of hundreds of annual parades, festivals, demonstrations, and protests regarding national government issues. Security arrangements for President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration were also among Sheriff High’s responsibilities. He was also responsible for the implementation of D.C.’s first community policing initiative, CEP (Community Empowerment Policing).

Community Involvement/Public Service – Sheriff High is a current member of the Board of the Economic Development Corporation of Prince George’s County and the Prince George’s County Pension System. He also serves as the Chairman of the Office Holders Nominating Committee of the Prince George’s County District for the Boy Scouts of America.

Other public service include activities as: Adjunct professor of Criminal Justice Administration at the University of the District of Columbia in 1993; Chairman, City of Norfolk’s United Way Campaign (2001); Chairman of the Virginia Chiefs of Police Law Enforcement 1998 Torch Run to raise funds to support the Virginia Special Olympics; Alumni Board Member of CIVIC, a Hampton Roads organization of community, business and professional leaders dedicated to the improvement of the region; Chairman, Hampton Roads Chapter 200+ Men’s Task Force on Safe and Drug Free Schools and; Chairman of the Recruitment and Retention subcommittee of the Norfolk Literacy Partnership.

Education – Sheriff High holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Tennessee State University (1966). He taught high school science in Mississippi until he was inducted into the Marine Corps in 1967, and served in Vietnam. He also holds a Masters degree in Business and Public Administration from Southeastern University in Washington, D.C. (1980). Sheriff High has completed graduate work in Criminal Justice Administration and Behavioral Science and Management at American University, the University of Virginia and George Washington University. He is a graduate of the Contemporary Executive Institute at George Washington University, the Senior Executive Institute at the University of Virginia, and the FBI National Academy.

Awards – Sheriff High received a mayoral citation for commanding the successful investigation and apprehension of a serial killer known as the “shotgun bandit,” who terrorized the District for three months in 1993. He also received a letter of appreciation from President Bill Clinton for services to the visitors and citizens of Washington, D.C. (1993). He is the recipient of numerous other awards including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Life Institute’s “Real Dream” award in 1998 and the W Garner Community Service Award in 2001 from the Norfolk chapter of the NAACP among others.

Memberships – Sheriff High is 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.

Family – The younger of two sons of a farmer and teacher from a small town in Union County, Mississippi, Sheriff High currently resides in Upper Marlboro, Maryland with his wife, Brenda. Their daughter, Tracy, graduated from Yale University in 1996 as a history major, and finished Harvard University Law School in 1999. She is now in private practice in New York City. The Highs are members of St. Joseph Catholic Church, Largo, Maryland.

(AP Photo by Charles Dharapak)