May 13, 2021 17:03

Contee, New D.C. Chief, Seeks ‘Compassionate Crime Fighters’

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser named Robert Contee as police chief, forgoing a national search and picking a veteran officer and native Washingtonian to lead the force amid a period of rising homicides and social justice reckoning, the Washington Post reports. Contee, a 31-year veteran who joined the force as a cadet, will take over from Chief Peter Newsham on Jan. 2 and will serve on an acting basis pending confirmation by the D.C. Council. Bowser said she is confident that Contee, assistant chief of the Investigative Services Bureau, will find “new and better ways to reduce violent crime while continuing to engage the community.”

Contee, 48, grew up in a violent neighborhood during the crack cocaine epidemic of the late 1980s. He has talked about witnessing officers using force. That perspective has given him credibility at a time when the city overhauling policing. He will face challenges  including a spike in killings, which have reached a 15-year high, coupled with demands from lawmakers and activists to shift funds away from police into a public health approach to crime-fighting. Contee cast himself as a leader who will support his officers but is open to change. He highlighted growing up in an impoverished community riddled with crime and drugs, and watching his father — now 11 years sober — struggle with addiction. Those experiences shaped his views, he said, emphasizing the need for “compassionate crime fighters” while focusing on violent crime and repeat offenders. “There are some people who are violent in our community who need to go to jail. Period,” Contee said. “There are some people … like my father, who are not violent in nature, who need treatment … I think there is enough space to accomplish both of those things.”

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