Mayor Muriel Bowser named GW alumnus Robert Contee III as her choice to be the next chief of the Metropolitan Police Department during a press conference Tuesday.
If confirmed by the D.C. Council, Contee will succeed Peter Newsham, who announced last month he will step down to head the Prince William County Police Department after leading MPD for more than three years. Contee, a D.C. native who’s worked for MPD for 31 years since he joined the department as a cadet during his senior year of high school, said he hopes to focus on reducing violent crime, which currently stands at record-high levels, and fostering community engagement across the District.
“It is my great honor to lead the Metropolitan Police Department, to be the standard of excellence for policing in the 21st century,” Contee said at the press conference. “There’s room at the table for anyone and everyone who is committed to ensuring focused, balanced and fair policing in our nation’s capital. It’s time to go to work.”
He said he plans to listen to local residents to ensure the department’s crime-fighting strategy grounded in “communication, cooperation, collaboration and participation” aligns with the community that he hopes to involve in open discussion.
With community engagement as one of his top priorities, Contee said he expects MPD officers “to demonstrate compassion for people wherever they are on the road of life” and resolve conflict with care and discretion to forge a partnership with community members.
“It has been my distinct honor to serve this city for all of my adult life,” Contee said. “You can expect me to model the behavior that I expect from you. You can expect fairness, and I expect you to be fair with members of the community. You can expect me to build relationships because we cannot have partnership without relationship.”
Contee said that as assistant chief, he created a training program in which officers visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture to learn about and understand the experiences of African Americans.
MPD’s website states that before he became assistant chief, Contee served as commander of three of the city’s eight police districts, and Bowser said he has also overseen three of the department’s five bureaus.
Contee earned his bachelor’s degree in professional studies with a concentration in political science at GW, according to MPD’s website.
Contee said the current rate of crime in D.C., where more than 800 people have been shot this year, is “unacceptable,” and he plans to hold violent offenders accountable to ensure safety is enforced within crime-ridden communities.
“I know there are many families in our communities that seek justice for loved ones that have been victims of violence, and I assure you that the Metropolitan Police Department will be relentless in our pursuit of criminals that make communities unsafe,” he said.
Contee said his immediate priorities as chief will be to ensure New Year’s celebrations and the presidential inauguration remain within the boundaries of public health and safety protocols amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bowser said she decided to select Contee for the job because of his longstanding familiarity and understanding of D.C. and its communities.
“Not only is he going to bring his experience as an officer but as a resident of this town as a Black boy and now a Black man who has experienced the best and worst of Washington D.C. to the table, to all of those discussions,” Bowser said.
Bowser noted how Contee’s relatability to the city’s youth drives his ambitions for the department’s role in the city.
“What strikes me most about Chief Contee’s many many experiences and talents is his belief in young people,” she said. “When we spoke last week, he said the highest honor for him is to give back to the city that raised him and that becoming chief is a testament to what happens when you give kids a fair shot.”
Outgoing MPD Chief Peter Newsham congratulated Contee on his appointment and attributed his experience with MPD and his native ties to the District to his character and qualification to serve as chief.
“His story is the man who he is,” Newsham said. “I could not be more proud of him today. He has a very deep bench at MPD that will support him, and I know that he will be successful in this job and will continue to move the Metropolitan Police Department in a positive direction.”