Peter Newsham

DC Mayor Picks Longtime Officer Robert Contee as Next Police Chief

Robert Contee started with MPD as a cadet in 1989, when he was a teenager

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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has named Robert Contee, a District native and 31-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police Department, as her pick for the city's next police chief.

Contee introduced himself on Tuesday as a "native son" of D.C. who wants to set a standard of excellence for policing in the 21st century, focusing on reducing violent crime and getting repeat offenders off the streets.

When asked what he would change as police chief, Contee said building relationships with community members was paramount.

"I think it's important to ensure that the community is part of that discussion" on police priorities across different neighborhoods, Contee said.

Bowser made the announcement Tuesday at a press conference. The Washington Post initially reported the news.

Contee is expected to take over on Jan. 2. D.C. Councilmember and Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety Charles Allen said details on the confirmation process will be announced in the new year.

"I will be looking to hear from the nominee not just about how the Department has changed during his tenure, but about where he wants to take the Department in the future," Allen said in a press release.

Bowser said she didn't interview other candidates and that hiring someone who knows the city and how the government works avoids some risk.

The D.C. Police Union supported the pick, saying "there is no one more apt to fill the position."

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Attorney General Karl Racine voiced full support for Contee, saying he trusts that Contee will work to address barriers to inequality.

Contee has spent his entire adult life with the D.C. police department. It leads some to question if an insider is capable of answering calls for reform that have become intense since the death of George Floyd in May and subsequent protests against police brutality in the District.

Ward 7 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Anthony Lorenzo Green, who has called for the abolition of D.C. police, criticized the pick.

"I don't throw away my own Black community in a cage because one has spent a career being a slave catcher...and not an agent for transformative change for Black people," Green said on Twitter.

Contee is currently the Assistant Chief of the Investigative Services Bureau, a position he was appointed to in 2018 by now-departing Police Chief Peter Newsham.

Contee was born and raised in D.C. and graduated from Spingarn High School in Northeast. In introducing himself as the prospective police chief, Contee recounted the struggles of his youth in D.C.

“Life was not easy in my neighborhood. Many of the challenges and traumas experienced by so many young people today were very real and present in my community, but also in my home,” Contee said.

He spoke at length about his father’s struggle with addiction, recalling images of drugs and paraphernalia at his home. He also lauded his mother as the first strong Black woman he ever knew.

“They are my heroes,” he said, revealing his father has been sober for 11 years now.

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Contee said he participated in former Mayor Marion Barry’s summer job and youth leadership programs, which helped lead him to opportunities as a D.C. police cadet at just 17 years old.

“I have not forgotten where I come from,” Contee said. “These life experiences will help me to lead and guide the men and women of the Metropolitan Police Department.”

Contee spent his career with MPD, where he rose through the ranks. His past roles include patrol officer, lieutenant and commander for the First, Second and Sixth Districts.

As Assistant Chief of MPD’s Professional Development Bureau, he oversaw the Disciplinary Review Division, police academy and recruitment division.

Contee would face issues including a rising number of homicides in the District and calls for police funding to be cut, which have been echoed by some city council members.

Newsham was hired as the new chief of police in Prince William County, Virginia, the board of county supervisors announced in November. He originally said he expected to stay with D.C. police through the inauguration in January.

Insiders suggested Contee as a replacement soon after Newsham’s departure was announced, News4’s Mark Segraves reported.  

Stay with News4 for more on this developing story

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