The NAACP will launch an effort today to encourage closer ties between police and blacks with a promotional campaign that will use baseball hats, candlelight vigils and African-American churches.
W. Gregory Wims, president of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the "Watchdog" program will encourage minorities to report suspicious activities to police and to meet with officers informally to discuss concerns.
"The minority community has historically had a distrust of law enforcement in this country, and, as the NAACP, we have to take the lead to change that," he said. "We want to let the police know we're not their enemies."
The announcement is scheduled for 11 a.m. at state police headquarters in Pikesville.
To promote the program, the NAACP plans to distribute at the news conference 100 black baseball hats, with the phrase "Watchdog NAACP" printed in yellow letters. About 200 hats have been distributed, Mr. Wims said.
The program also will be promoted through black churches, which traditionally are a powerful influence among African-Americans, he said.
The 50,000-member Maryland NAACP state conference also will ask local chapters to form committees to meet periodically with police officials in each jurisdiction to encourage recruitment of minorities by police departments.
Candlelight vigils throughout Maryland are planned for summer and a fund-raiser to support more promotions is planned for Friday night at Fox Trappe, a Washington nightclub. Mr. Wims said he hopes the event, sponsored by the Washington Bullets, will attract 400 people and raise $1,500.
If the effort succeeds, he said he will introduce a resolution at the NAACP's national convention in Minneapolis in July to encourage the group to launch it nationwide.