DC’s acting police chief wants task force to look closely at diversity, inclusion and equity

As acting D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee asked D.C. Council members to confirm him as the city’s permanent chief, he said he planned to hire a diversity task force to review the department’s policies.

Contee said use of force policies had already been examined closely.

“Police policies as they relate to equity have been subject to less review,” he said.

Contee told the council’s Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety he would bring in a national, independent organization to look closely at the department’s policies related to diversity, inclusion and equity in multiple areas, including race, gender and sexual orientation.

“This is a core issue for community trust,” said Contee as he testified before the D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety.

The review will focus on recruiting efforts, training and who gets promoted. It will include “a specific focus on extremism, hate speech and white supremacy” as well, according to Contee.

The council’s five-member public safety committee grilled Contee throughout the day and will soon schedule a vote on whether the District should hire him as the permanent police chief.

If a majority of the committee members vote yes, the full council would then hold a final vote.

Asked what he finds most challenging about policing, Contee said he regrets the lack of options for early interventions for young residents known to need help.

“We put them right back into the environment where they have no structure, where there is educational neglect, where mom may not have any control, or like my dad — if you have a chemical-dependent parent — really putting the onus on them like they’re going to magically one day fix the problem,” Contee said.

The acting chief noted there are numbers of programs available through the judicial system that aren’t offered to teens until they become “system-involved,” perhaps charged with murder as 13- or 15-year-olds.

“On my belt I have a telephone, I have handcuffs and I have a firearm,” Contee said. “I don’t like to use my firearm. I would not like to use my handcuffs. What I would like to do is be able to pick up the phone and connect kids and other people in crisis to services.”

WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this story.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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