After 31 years, Washington’s police chief leaves for job in PrinceWilliam
WASHINGTON— District of Columbia Police Chief Peter Newsham is leaving the force to take over the police department in Prince William County, ending a threedecade career in law enforcement in the nation’s capital.
His departure from one of the most visible law enforcement posts in the country comes as homicides escalate in the Washington and the chief finds himself increasingly at odds with city leaders on how to negotiate changes in policing amid a reckoning over race and social justice.
The news came abruptly in a news release from the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. District Council Chairman Phil Mendelson learned of Newsham’s new job when a reporter contacted him Tuesday night.
In a statement, Mayor Muriel Bowser thanked the chief and said that
“he led the department through a time of great change and challenge for our city and our nation, and we appreciate his distinguished service to the District.”
She said an interim chief will be announced soon.
Newsham said his departure felt bittersweet but added that he looked forward to taking on a new challenge.
“After 31 years, it’s time for a change, and I saw the opportunity in Prince William,” Newsham said in an interview. “It’s a county that’s growing, a county that needs good policing like any part of [the District].”
The chief said he will stay in his role until after President-elect Joe Biden’s
inauguration in January.
The District will join a number of the Washington area’s other jurisdictions in hunts for police chiefs. Over the past five months, the leaders of departments in the counties of Fairfax, Arlington, Prince George’s and Anne Arundel all have announced that they were stepping down or retiring.
In the District, tensions between Newsham and the liberal D.C. Council have been growing for some time and became worse in the aftermath of demonstrations drawing thousands to Washington to rally for changes to policing in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis.
The council approved $15 million in cuts to the police department, a relatively modest trim compared with the steep cuts sought by activists but one opposed by the mayor, who said it would jeopardize public safety.
The council also approved emergency legislation, including a measure requiring the department to publicly identify officers who use deadly force and to post footage of the incidents. Police and council members also feuded over law enforcement tactics used against protesters, including spraying chemical irritants.