After 31 years at the Metropolitan Police Department, Peter Newsham has announced that he will be stepping down from his position as police chief.
Newsham was sworn in as police chief in January 2017 after being appointed interim police chief in 2016. Newsham plans to lead the police department of Prince William County, Virginia, beginning next year.
In response to the announcement of Newsham’s resignation, Mayor Muriel Bowser expressed gratitude for Newsham’s service.
“During his time as Chief, 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,” Bowser said in a Nov. 24 statement.
Newsham has faced criticism surrounding multiple matters including his handling of recent protests and deadly police shootings. This past summer, he faced increased scrutiny as demonstrations against police killings of Black citizens took place in Washington, D.C., and throughout the nation.
While his service is appreciated, Newsham’s departure could also enable positive change, according to D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.
“This presents an opportunity to try new approaches to law enforcement and new strategies to fight violent crime. We’re losing a good cop, but sometimes a fresh face can be a good, too,” Mendelson said in a statement Nov. 24.
Members of the council are currently working with Bowser to select Newsham’s successor. Bowser has also assured that an acting police chief will be named soon.
Newsham is scheduled to begin his new role in Prince William County in February 2021, according to the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. He will be replacing former chief, Barry Barnard, who retired July 2020.
The D.C. Council passed a variety of police reforms during Newsham’s time as police chief, including emergency legislation in June which required the release of the names of officers involved in a shooting by police and body camera footage.
Newsham expressed frustration about the Council and the emergency legislation in a private address first reported by Fox 5.
“They completely abandoned us,” Newsham said. “They forgot about our 20 years of reform, and they insulted us by insinuating that we were in an emergency need of reform.”
During the month following the June reform bill, D.C. Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) expressed disapproval of the police chief, calling for Newsham to resign.
“Chief Newsham has regularly engaged in an adversarial, rather than collaborative, relationship with the Council, even on piecemeal reforms,” Grosso said in a July 9 statement. “Chief Newsham pushes an outdated tough on crime approach to policing that results in violence and harassment of untold numbers of people, mostly Black, across our city.”
In moving to his position in Prince William County, Newsham will be taking a pay reduction. His annual salary will be $215,000, according to Prince William County spokeswoman Sherrie Johnson. In comparison, last year, the Washington Business Journal reported that Newsham’s MPD salary was approximately $273,000.