Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Chief Peter Newsham will begin his term as interim chief of the MPD on Sept. 17 following the retirement of Chief Cathy Lanier, as announced by Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) on Aug. 23.
This announcement comes one week after Lanier declared she would step down after 10 years as chief of Washington D.C.’s police force in order to serve as the new senior vice president of security operations at the National Football League. Lanier marked the first permanent female chief.
Bowser highlighted Newsham’s 14 years of experience as the MPD’s assistant chief and his decades-long commitment to serving the District as qualifications for his new role.
“Like Chief Lanier, Peter has deep roots serving the District and believes in the power of building relationships with communities as the best way to deter and solve crime,” Bowser said in a statement. “I have known him for more than a decade; he is a police officer of the highest caliber and is extremely qualified to serve as the interim chief of police while we conduct the search for a permanent replacement.”
MPD Public Affairs Specialist Alice Kim added that Lanier and Newsham have shared experiences and visions for the department.
“Chief Newsham and Chief Lanier have worked together for many years and Chief Lanier has welcomed the news of Chief Newsham’s appointment,” Kim wrote in an email to The Hoya. “With the transition as Chief Lanier retires and Chief Newsham takes command as interim chief, his plans and priorities are to build upon MPD’s successes.”
Lanier’s retirement comes a year after the D.C. Police Union released the results of a survey which found 98 percent of the 1,150 MPD officers who participated in the survey indicated they had “no confidence” in Lanier’s ability to lead the department. Lanier frequently clashed with the police union, which questioned her management style and the speed at which she hired new staff.
Though crime rates have decreased substantially during Lanier’s tenure, the number of homicides in D.C. increased by 54 percent from 2014 to 2015. Similarly, though the number of homicides at this point in 2016 is 14 percent lower than it was in 2015, the District is on track to have a homicide rate approximately 20 percent higher than it did in 2014.
Kim asserted that Lanier’s resignation was unrelated to the majority vote of “no confidence,” saying relations between the Police Union and MPD have improved in the past year.
“Chief Lanier and management at MPD have seen improved relations with the Police Union since the change in leadership, and have worked together closely to resolve issues that have come up in the past,” Kim wrote.
Newsham, who graduated from the College of the Holy Cross with a degree in political science, joined the police force in 1989 after initially seeking work on Capitol Hill.
After being named the assistant chief of police in 2002, Mr. Newsham has overseen various offices in the police department, including the Office of Professional Responsibility and the Investigative Services Bureau.
“Like all good political science majors, I came down to D.C. looking for a job on Capitol Hill,” said Newsham in an interview with NBC Washington. “I was living on my own at the time and the salaries on the Hill weren’t really enough to support myself. So I saw that the police department was advertising for police officers in the paper, and I took that opportunity. And I got to tell you, truly and honestly, that was the best decision I ever made in my life.”
Kim said Newsham’s plans for the department are focused on community relations and the individuals on the force.
“Going forth, Chief Newsham believes that 1. the cornerstone of a successful police department is in the relationship that it has with the community it serves, and 2. those successes aren’t possible without a productive, happy, healthy members in the force,” Kim wrote. “He strongly believes that the assets MPD has are the people who carry forth the job and responsibilities.”
The mayor’s office will continue to search for candidates for MPD chief both in and outside the District with the hopes of selecting the next chief of police from D.C.’s law enforcement elite. Though the mayor may nominate whoever she chooses for the role of MPD Chief, her choice must ultimately be approved by the D.C. Council.
In her resignation letter, Lanier said she believes she is leaving the MPD in capable hands.
“After 26 years with MPD I have decided to submit my papers for retirement,” Lanier wrote in a resignation letter. “I came to this difficult decision with mixed emotions, but in the end, I am confident that MPD has the most exceptional police officers and leadership that will continue to move this agency and the city forward.”