Speaking frankly and in personal terms, D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee addressed the public Thursday, explaining his decision to step down from the police department after more than 30 years on the force, including two years as chief.
“The job weighs on me every day,” Contee said. “You carry the weight of the world — the weight of the city — on your shoulders.”
Contee described how the job was heavy, often involving tragic circumstances.
“If I never had to hear another parent who lost their child scream, I’m OK with that because that sound pierces my heart,” Contee said. “Those are huge things that you carry around with you every single day.”
Crime numbers have been increasing in the District, with homicides up 16% and overall crime up 25% when compared to the same time last year.
Contee insisted that did not play a role in his decision to step down.
He said a job he accepted with the FBI was too good to pass up.
“I’m not getting any younger,” Contee said. “I got probably less years in front of me than I do behind me.”
He’ll be an assistant director with the FBI’s Office of Partner Engagement. Contee’s last day as police chief will be June 3.
The DC Police Union said they respect Contee’s dedication to the District and wished him the best moving forward in his new position with the FBI.
“The members of the DC Police Union wish Chief Contee the best in his new role with the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” Gregg Pemberton, chairman of the union, said in a statement. “Chief Contee has led an illustrious and decorated career serving the District of Columbia and its residents for over 33 years. His contributions to this city are innumerable.”
Contee, who grew up in D.C., said being able to serve as chief in his hometown was “the highest honor.”
According to Mayor Muriel Bowser, the city will launch a nationwide search for Contee’s replacement, but Bowser said her administration would also be taking a close look internally for individuals who may be qualified for the job.
D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson said he was shocked at the news of Contee’s decision to leave, 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. “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.”