Robert Contee

Chief Robert Contee to Leave DC Police Department, Join FBI

“It has been my greatest honor to serve as your chief of police,” Contee said

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The chief of D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department is retiring from his position.

Chief Robert Contee III announced his retirement from the department whose uniform he has worn since he joined the D.C. police cadet program as a 17-year-old student at Joel Elias Spingarn High School.

“It has been my greatest honor to serve as your chief of police,” Contee said in a brief video.

He confirmed that he will become an assistant director of the FBI.

A D.C. local who grew up in the Carver Terrace community of Northeast D.C., Contee became chief in May 2021 after first joining the department in 1989 and rising through the ranks.

His tenure as chief began amid concerns about staffing and morale, with him serving as interim chief from the beginning of January 2021 — just before the Jan. 6 insurrection — until his official confirmation on May 4 of that year.

While serving as chief, Contee dealt with an increase in violent crimes, especially gun violence involving young people.

The number of juvenile gunshot wound victims went up during the period from Jan. 1 to April 20 each year Contee was chief. During those four months in 2021, there were 15 incidents where young people became victims of gun violence; in 2022, it was 19 incidents, and in 2023 so far, there have been 32 incidents.

Contee said upon being confirmed that one of his top goals was to get guns off streets.

“As long as we have a gun problem in this city, and as long as we have people who are continuously pulling out illegal firearms, in the hands of people who should not have them, we will continue as a department to focus on recovering illegal guns,” he said.

Homicides in D.C. increased from 198 in 2020 to 227 in 2021. After falling to 203 last year, there have been 67 in 2023, up 20% over the same time last year. If that 20% were to hold, it would be the most homicides in D.C. since 2004.

Meanwhile, the police force is down almost 12%, from 3,800 sworn officers when Contee became chief to 3,362 as of April.

Contee will work at FBI headquarters in D.C. A source told News4 that Contee is thrilled with his upcoming job change. His last day with the MPD will be June 3.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser thanked Contee for his service to the District.

D.C. Chief of Police Robert Contee is resigning from the department, a source told News4. Here’s what we know so far.

"Chief Contee was sworn in four days before January 6, 2021," the mayor said in a statement. "Since his first week on the job, and over the past 33 years, he has been making Washington, DC incredibly proud. He’s a son of DC who grew up in Carver Langston, joined the Metropolitan Police Department as a cadet at 17 years old, and now he’s ready for his next chapter."

"On behalf of our city, I want to congratulate Chief Contee on his retirement and thank him for his service to DC — for leading MPD with passion and purpose," Bowser continued. "He has pushed our criminal justice system to do more and be better. He has led MPD through an incredibly challenging time for our country – from the pandemic to January 6th and navigating the effects of a shrinking department during a time when gun violence is exploding across the nation. He has been a phenomenal ambassador of what it means to be a police officer in DC – brilliant, compassionate, and determined to build a DC where all people feel safe and are safe."

"We know that the Chief has a motto: Excellence is transferable. And we know he will leave behind a team of leaders and officers ready to continue serving DC at the highest levels," Bowser said.

It's unclear how long Contee's decision to retire from the MPD had been in the works.

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson also released a statement Wednesday evening.

"I am shocked at the news of Police Chief Contee’s decision to leave MPD," Mendelson said. "I am sorry to see him leave after more than three decades of service to the District. I wish him well in his next endeavors."

"The Council stands ready to work with Mayor Bowser to find the best candidate to succeed Chief Contee," Mendelson continued. "I am hopeful that the Mayor will take this opportunity to find a leader who is willing to try new approaches to law enforcement and new strategies to fight violent crime."

News4 I-Team reporter Ted Oberg contributed to this report.

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