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Contee On the Road to Becoming Next D.C. Police Chief

With Council Nod, He Will Join Ranks of Black Top Cops Nationally

Acting D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III’s nomination moved one step closer to confirmation recently, clearing the D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety.

On March 24, the committee, led by D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) with Council members Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Anita Bonds (D-At Large), Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) and Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2), voted in favor of Contee’s confirmation to be the next chief.

Allen said Contee — appointed by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in December — “is the right person for the right time.”

“Our police department faces significant challenges,” Allen said. “But he is the person to do the job. In my conversations with him and at the hearing last week, Contee shows that he is open to change and he understands aspects of the department must evolve.”

Contee’s nomination heads to the full D.C. Council for final confirmation. During the council hearings two weeks ago, Contee told the council members he understood that they want him to get a handle on the District’s increasing crime rate particularly homicide, carjacking and petty robbery. Plus, he recognized the District’s police force will have to play a supportive role in the security of federal facilities such as the U.S. Capitol.

Contee also acknowledged he may have to perform his job with declining District government resources due to the coronavirus pandemic’s adverse effect on the District’s economy and city budget and calls by organizations who support initiatives defunding the police.

Council Confirmation Vote

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said at an April 5 news conference he doesn’t know exactly when Contee’s confirmation vote before the District’s legislative body will take place.

“We could vote on his confirmation as early as April 20 in an extra legislative meeting but I am not suggesting that. I will have to speak with Council member Allen about that. The confirmation vote could take place on May 4, our next [scheduled] legislative meeting.”

No council member or major organization has voiced opposition to Contee’s confirmation. If confirmed, Contee will be the sixth Black to run the department. He is preceded by Burtell M. Jefferson (1978-1981), Maurice T. Turner Jr., (1981-1989), Isaac Fulwood (1989-1992), Fred Thomas (1992-1995) and Charles H. Ramsey (1998-2006).

Contee, if confirmed, will join the ranks Black male urban police chiefs that include David O’Neal Brown of Chicago, Troy Finner of Houston, Rodney Bryant of Atlanta, Medaria Arradondo of Minneapolis, Michael S. Harrison of Baltimore, Malik Aziz of Prince George’s County and Marcus S. Jones of Montgomery County.

Contee’s Professional Support

Dwayne Crawford, executive director of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), said Contee will have the full support of the Alexandria, Va.-based organization.

“We have a lot of training tools for people in law enforcement who want to move up the ranks of their departments,” Crawford said. “We sponsor webinars, panels, direct training courses and conferences. We have a CEO symposium for members who want to be chiefs or sheriffs.”

Crawford said Contee will be able to tap into the resources of other organizations such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Major City Chiefs Association as well as the U.S. Department of Justice’s training programs. Crawford said being the chief of a department can at times be a lonely job, but said Contee will have plenty of support from his fellow chiefs.

“Our organization offers a strong support system for African American chiefs of police,” he said. “We are available to help him in any way he needs us. He should feel free to ask for assistance if needed.”

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