In Prince William County, protesters demand reversal of DC police chief hiring

People upset over the hiring of D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham to become the head of Prince William County, Virginia’s, law enforcement next year continued to put pressure on local leaders to rethink the decision this week.

On Tuesday, several dozen demonstrators showed up outside the James. J. McCoart Building on Prince William Parkway in Woodbridge, where the Prince William County Board of Supervisors met inside.

The angered residents demanded that the county immediately terminate Newsham’s hiring contract over “multiple allegations of abuse in both his personal and professional life.”

Many were holding signs while marching and chanting, “D.C. didn’t want him. We don’t either.” Cars and trucks honked their horns driving past the rally.

While the number of protesters was small for the afternoon event, organizers boasted that many others across the county are backing their effort.

“He’s done a horrible job in D.C.,” said Nancy Lyall, who helped put together a petition with more than 2,000 signatures calling for the county to cancel the hiring contract.

“We don’t need someone coming in that’s got experience with racial profiling,” Lyall said. “We need somebody who can help this county, not hurt it.”

But County Board of Supervisors Chair Ann Wheeler expressed different feelings, believing they made the right choice based on Newsham’s experience working with a diverse police department. She also credited the current D.C. police chief for reducing use of force in the city over the years.

When Newsham’s hiring was announced, the county spoke highly of its selection.

“Chief Newsham distinguished himself throughout the intensive recruitment process,” the county said in a November news release.

But those at the protest just yards away from the latest board meeting think Newsham isn’t the right person.

“We don’t need to rush the decision,” demonstrator Robert Walker said. “[Newsham] believes in suppressing the voices of activists, and we don’t appreciate it.”

Prince William County began its search for a new police chief after Barry Barnard retired in July.

Newsham, who takes over the Prince William position in February, has served with the Metropolitan Police Department for more than three decades and held the title of police chief since 2017.

Ken Duffy

Ken Duffy is a reporter and anchor at WTOP with more than 20 years of experience. He has reported from major events like the 2016 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, 2016 Election Night at Trump Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan and the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami.

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