Prince William Co. board chair on hiring Peter Newsham to be police chief

A county official in Prince William County, Virginia, has offered some insight into why D.C. police chief Peter Newsham was picked for the top spot in the county’s police department, and what she hopes he will deliver.

“We have a wonderful police department right now, but we can always get better,” said Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chair Ann Wheeler. “And with the experience that he has of so many years of running a large police organization, we felt he could bring those techniques here and definitely benefit us.”

Newsham has spent 31 years with the D.C. police. He became an assistant chief in 2002, and was named chief in 2017.

“I think he’s dealt with a lot of tough issues,” Wheeler said. “… being in policing right now is tough and I think he’s been able to navigate that, and I think he’ll bring some of those strong leadership skills to Prince William County.”

Wheeler hopes the new chief will make changes.

“I was impressed that the D.C. police department — the demographics of the department officers themselves; their patrol officers — mirrored their community, which is something that we need to make advances on,” she said.

Newsham beat out dozens of others who applied for the position.

“It has been a six-month process,” Wheeler said. “There was a panel convened by the county executive (Chris Martino) of a mix of people.” The county said in a statement that the panel consisted of Deputy County Executive Elijah Johnson, County Attorney Michelle Robl, Commonwealth’s Attorney Amy Ashworth, Sheriff Glenn Hill and “three PWC residents active in the community and very familiar with law enforcement.”

“Because it is such an exciting position, we had — I think it was 50 candidates from across the United States,” Wheeler said. “They went through that process along with a consultant; whittled that down to a smaller group that they interviewed themselves and as a board we interviewed the four final candidates.”

Newsham is expected to start his new job Feb. 1.

“I’m excited for Prince William County growing and changing, and I think this is evidence that we’re moving in the right direction,” Wheeler said.

Martino said in the statement, “We are very excited to have Chief Newsham join the Prince William team as our new Police Chief. The experience he brings to PWC will continue our long-established tradition of providing excellent policing services to the residents and businesses of Prince William County.”

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