- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The D.C. Council confirmed Assistant Chief Peter Newsham as the Metropolitan Police Department’s top cop, but some lawmakers expressed reservations about his appointment before the vote.

Chief Newsham, a member of the police force since 1989, had been criticized by residents and lawmakers over the mass arrest of more than 200 protesters charged with felony rioting on Inauguration Day in January.

Critics said the police action resembled similar actions by the chief in 2002, when protesters were arrested in Pershing Park during anti-World Bank and International Monetary Fund demonstrations. The city was forced to pay about $11 million in settlements for the mass arrest.

“The next police chief needs to be visionary and think outside the box,” council member David Grosso said before the vote. “I do not see this nominee helping us achieve that change.”

Mr. Grosso, at-large independent, said the police department’s priorities need to be promoting nonviolence, community relations and intervention to counteract what he sees as regressive policies.

Mr. Grosso was the only member of the 13-member council to vote against Chief Newsham’s nomination, but other lawmakers voiced their concerns before voting “yes.”

Kenyan McDuffie, who formerly chaired the Judiciary Committee, said reviews of Chief Newsham among residents were “mixed.”

“I think that the chief acknowledges there is room for improvement, and I think that’s very important, especially for someone who has been on the force as long as he has,” the Ward 5 Democrat said.

But through his participation in community meetings and committee hearings over the past several months, Chief Newsham successfully represented himself as a reformer who has helped his department become a modern, professional force, others said.

“As a black man who has been arrested and pulled over many times I take this issue very seriously,” said council member Robert White, at-large Democrat. “We have to realize that there are many things about our policing and our justice system that are broken.”

Another freshman lawmaker — Trayon White, Ward 8 Democrat — said the chief was very responsive in conversations and won him over: “I can see he has the heart to do this work. Police is not the end-all solution but I think they are a vital part.”

Vincent Gray cited concerns from his constituents, saying “not all of my reservations have been resolved” with regard to the chief. But the Ward 7 Democrat eventually voted for Chief Newsham.

Mayor Muriel Bowser nominated Chief Newsham in February after a nationwide search for a replacement for Cathy L. Lanier, who had left the department in September to become the safety chief for the National Football League. Chief Newsham had led the department as the interim chief in the months before his nomination.

“Experience is very important and knowing the city is very important. Promoting from within is always my first selection,” said council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat. “It gives confidence to other people in the department.”

Council member Mary Cheh echoed that sentiment. “Peter Newsham is experienced, he knows the city,” the Ward 3 Democrat said. “He’s open-minded and he learns from his mistakes.”

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