Chief Robert Contee leaving DC police for job with FBI

Funeral Shooting Nation's Capital
Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee III speaks with reporters Tuesday, April 11, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
After serving more than two years as D.C. police chief, Robert Contee has announced he's retiring, WTOP's Mike Murillo reports.

D.C. police chief Robert Contee is retiring from the force and is accepting a role with the FBI, sources tell WTOP.

In a video announcement, Contee said that he has been appointed as the bureau’s assistant director in the Office of Partner Engagement.

“My responsibility will be to ensure that the FBI is fully supporting local and state and federal agencies across our nation,” Contee said. His last day with D.C. police is June 3.

In a statement, Mayor Muriel Bowser expressed her congratulations and gratitude for Contee’s service to the District.

“He has pushed our criminal justice system to do more and be better,” Bowser said in a statement.

Contee has been leading the department since late 2020, replacing former Chief Peter Newsham, who went on to head the Prince William County Police Department in Virginia.

Contee’s departure comes amid rising crime in the District and reduced staffing and retention problems within the department.

Bowser acknowledged his leadership of D.C. police during an “incredibly challenging time for our country — from the pandemic to January 6th and navigating the effects of a shrinking department during a time when gun violence is exploding across the nation,” Bowser said.

Contee and Bowser were scheduled to announce a “focused and community-centered approach to public safety” on Thursday, which will be implemented as part of D.C. police patrol operations to address the rise of crime in the community.

Often speaking about holding people accountable, especially for gun crimes, Contee has expressed support for the reform of D.C.’s criminal code, which has largely been unchanged for 100 years. However, he does not support the lowering of penalties for violent offenders.

“I’ve been very public about where I stand on that. Anytime we’re talking about lowering penalties for violent offenders who commit crimes in our city, that’s a non-starter for me,” Contee told WTOP’s “DMV Download” podcast.

President Joe Biden last month signed into law a resolution to block the D.C. crime bill that opponents have criticized as weak on crime, CNN reported. Bowser previously vetoed the bill, and the D.C. Council overrode the mayor’s veto 12-1 before Biden signed the resolution.

City leaders surprised but ready to search for a new police chief for DC, WTOP's Dick Uliano reports.

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson said that he was shocked at the news of Contee’s decision to leave the department, but wished him well in his next endeavors.

“The Council stands ready to work with Mayor Bowser to find the best candidate to succeed Chief Contee,” Mendelson said in a statement. “I am hopeful that the Mayor will take this opportunity to find a leader who is willing to try new approaches to law enforcement and new strategies to fight violent crime.”

D.C. council chair of the judiciary and public safety committee, Brooke Pinto, told WTOP she’s grateful for Chief Contee’s more than three decades of service to the District of Columbia.

“Well it is certainly going to be a huge loss for the Metropolitan Police Department and the District,” Pinto said.

Pinto’s committee voted this week in favor of giving the police department the money it needs to boost hiring.

“I have funded in the budget all of the positions that Chief Contee believes MPD can hire,” Pinto said.

Contee said he does not know who his successor will be. “The mayor of our great city, Mayor Muriel Bowser, will ultimately make that decision,” Contee said.

WTOP’s Dick Uliano contributed to this report.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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