- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 23, 2017

Interim Chief Peter Newsham was appointed Thursday morning as head of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.

Chief Newsham has been running the department since September, when Cathy L. Lanier stepped down to oversee security for the National Football League.

“As we continue our work in creating a safer, stronger D.C., I am confident that Chief Newsham has the skills and relationships to successfully lead our police force,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a press conference. “He understands and believes in community policing, and he is trusted by members of the community.”

Chief Newsham, a 28-year veteran with the department, called his job one of the most “coveted positions in policing” and said his top priority is to build more trust with the community.

“The police are there to help,” he said, adding that community policing is about empathy and respect for residents.

In the months since Ms. Lanier’s departure, Chief Newsham has overseen the police force’s transition to a sector patrol strategy and the full deployment of body-worn cameras to patrol officers.

Before being named interim chief, he led the department’s Investigative Services Bureau, which examines violent and narcotics-related crimes. In previous positions, Chief Newsham oversaw the department’s internal affairs and disciplinary review offices, as well as the Northern Regional Command, which includes the department’s 2nd, 3rd and 4th districts.

Miss Bowser said she wanted to wait until after the city found a new schools chancellor and after the presidential inauguration to appoint a new police chief. She praised Chief Newsham’s performance during the inauguration.

“Last month, Chief Newsham oversaw the very successful presidential inauguration, as well as the Women’s March on Washington,” Miss Bowser said. “With the eyes of the world on us, our officers stepped up to the plate and performed.”

Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Kevin Donahue, who led the search for a chief, said the administration received more than 100 applications from across the country.

Those candidates were winnowed to about a dozen, who went through several rounds of interviews, Mr. Donahue said. The four finalists spent “significant time” with Miss Bowser before she chose Chief Newsham.

The administration also culled opinions from the public. The mayor’s office sent surveys asking for residents’ priorities and views about the police department and received about 6,000 replies.

Miss Bowser released the survey results showing that though most respondents have positive opinions of the police force, there is room for improvement.

“Police are put in place to police the law, not police people. They are ambassadors for the law. They should be in the community to help prevent crime, as opposed to just responding to incidents,” one respondent said.

Another said police need better training for dealing with residents. “I’ve taken an in-depth look at the police academy curriculum and it is weak,” the respondent said. “I’ve noticed that after five or six years on the beat, officers are not clear on civil and criminal infractions. This leads to reactive instead of proactive interactions with citizens.”

Chief Newsham, who needs to be confirmed by the D.C. Council, received praise from several high-level officials.

“Chief Newsham has done a solid job of leading the District’s police department,” said council Chairman Phil Mendelson. “I have complete confidence in his ability to keep the city safe.”

Mr. Mendelson said he is happy that Miss Bowser hired from within the department instead of from outside the District.

“The mayor’s decision sends a message to the rank and file that good work leads to promotions and maybe even becoming chief,” he said.

Council member Charles Allen, who heads the Judiciary Committee, did not signal whether he supported Chief Newsham’s nomination, but he said he looks forward to hearings on the nominee.

Mr. Allen listed priorities for the chief, including a commitment to community policing and relationship building, enhancing the transparency of the department’s operations and data and stabilizing the police force by recruiting and retaining the best of the best.

The Judiciary Committee will hold three hearings, including two community roundtables, in coming weeks.

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said he is impressed by Chief Newsham’s commitment to protecting all city residents.

• Ryan M. McDermott can be reached at rmcdermott@washingtontimes.com.

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