WASHINGTON — Interim police chief Peter Newsham is D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s pick to lead the D.C. police force permanently, she announced at a news conference this week.
Newsham had been serving as the interim chief since former longtime top cop Cathy Lanier stepped down in September.
At the official announcement, Bowser cited Newsham’s commitment to community policing and said the interim chief had proved his mettle during the high-profile presidential inauguration last month and the Women’s March on Washington the following day, which combined drew more than 1 million people to downtown D.C.
Bowser praises ‘reliable and consistent’ Newsham
Newsham has been with the Metropolitan Police Department since 1989 and had been assistant chief of police since 2002 before being named acting chief. Lanier, who had served as D.C.’s police chief for nearly a decade, retired in September to become head of security for the NFL.
“As interim chief, Newsham has been reliable and consistent,” Bowser said Tuesday, saying she received letters and postcards from D.C. residents and visitors praising the department’s performance during the inauguration weekend.
“With the eyes of the world on us, our officers stepped up to the plate and performed,” she said. “They kept Washington, D.C. safe. They kept our businesses protected, and they ensured that over a million people could exercise their First Amendment rights.”
On Inauguration Day, D.C. officers responded to a violent outburst by protesters in downtown D.C. More than 200 protesters were arrested and charged with felony rioting. So far, charges have been dropped against nine people who were initially caught up in the arrests, including four journalists.
A class-action lawsuit alleging indiscriminate arrests of bystanders, journalists and legal observers, was filed last month.
Bowser said Tuesday that Newsham “exercised great judgment” during the inauguration protests.
Newsham pledges focus on community policing
Newsham pledged to continue a focus in the department on community policing.
“It’s a philosophy that needs to be instilled in every single officer,” he said Tuesday. “The philosophy is that we the police are here to help. When you call us, we’re not going to ask your race, your religion, your age, your sexual orientation. When you call us, we will always come and when we come, we’re coming to help.”
During his five-month tenure as acting chief, Newsham finalized a department policy for using body cameras. After an extensive pilot program, all D.C. police are officers are now equipped with body-worn cameras that are required to be activated whenever they respond to calls for service.
Newsham also retooled the organization of special liaison units, which serve the city’s various minority groups, putting them directly under his purview as chief.
“I felt some of our underserved communities were feeling a little uncomfortable with what happened during the election, and I think they needed to know that the chief of police was paying attention to that and if they needed resources in their particular community, that the chief of police was going to be on top of that make sure that happened,” he said.
Mayor’s office sifted through 100 resumes
Kevin Donohue, deputy D.C. mayor for public safety and justice, led a nationwide talent search for the position. The mayor’s office sifted through more than 100 resumes, he said. Bowser’s office also met with community leaders, local groups, high school students and others in addition to surveying about 6,000 D.C. residents to get a sense of local priorities for the new chief, Donohue said Tuesday.
Bowser personally interviewed four candidates, he said.
The 13-member D.C. Council must approve Newsham’s appointment.
At the Tuesday news conference, Bowser also announced she was naming interim chief of the D.C. Department of Corrections Quincy Booth to a permanent position.