Well, Peter Newsham is on his way out the door as chief of the D.C. police. He plans to leave after Inauguration Day events.
His departure is not the end of the world, but it does beg a pertinent question:
What, precisely, is the role of a police chief?
Political hack? Law enforcer? “Racism” fighter?
A 31-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police Department, Chief Newsham is no politician, but he publicly respected their roles. He is an enabler of the good sort, a hired gun enabling the mayor and D.C. Council members to go before smartphone cameras and the media to express their thoughts and feelings after, say, innocent youths are shot and city leaders want to assure the public that D.C. cops would do their jobs.
At least, that was what held sway until the slogan “defund the police” began overshadowing police chiefs and the rank-and-file nationwide, and politicians decided not only to defund budgets for law enforcement but also to order police to stand down and allow violent interrupters to have their say and their way.
That’s certainly what happened last month at a D.C. police station on Georgia Avenue NW, where protesters turned their violence on the glass-and-brick station house. And the world watched from spring into fall as protesters of all sorts rioted, looted and blasted businesses and neighborhoods. Law and order were damned.
As cops in D.C., Chief Newsham and his MPD work with the Secret Service, U.S. Capitol Police, Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Park Police, Military Police, Amtrak Police, Metropolitan Transit Authority Police and too many others to name.
MPD also coordinates with federal agencies regarding military installations, such as the 2013 mass shooting at the Navy Yard, which left 12 people dead and three others injured.
MPD also works with federal law enforcers for inaugurations, demonstrations and protestations large and small, and ensures safety for “artists” who paint Black Lives Matter along a busy downtown D.C. street.
The MPD also protects school kids and school personnel.
All this and more, yet some D.C. lawmakers want to reform the MPD. They want to replace Chief Newsham with someone who will battle “racism.”
Council member Charles Allen, who represents Capitol Hill, said Chief Newsham’s departure offers an opportunity to hire such a police chief, who will fight “the systemic racism that exists in our city.”
Such rhetoric might aid him in the 2022 elections, but what people who live, work and/or play in the nation’s capital want and need is a crime-fighting leader who prevents crime and arrests criminals, including those who might hurt Mr. Allen and his family.
To be even more blunt, Mr. Allen should clear his throat. He apparently drank the Kool-Aid poured in 2017 by colleague David Grosso, who became the lone lawmaker to cast a “no” vote at the Newsham confirmation hearing and will be exiting City Hall in January. (Boo-hoos not allowed.)
Moreover, Mr. Grosso is the same lawmaker who asked Mayor Muriel Bowser to fire the chief this summer because he talked out loud — and rightly so — about throwing the hardworking men and women of MPD under the bus with proposed budget cuts.
Fortunately, Chief Newsham isn’t expected to depart for Prince William County in Northern Virginia until after the 2021 inauguration, new council swearing-ins and new committee assignments.
In the meantime, lawmakers should re-school themselves.
The police and their chiefs are not political hacks and partisan hacks, and politicians should have their backs.
Police departments and Chief Newsham are crime preventers, crime solvers and public safety protectors.
Their job, their role is to enforce the law — not fight “racism.”
⦁ Deborah Simmons can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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