District residents seem encouraged by the nomination of Robert J. Contee III as the next chief of police by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser but they also want him to work hard to fight crime in their neighborhoods and to become a positive face of the D.C. police department.
“I definitely support his confirmation as our city’s next police chief,” Yvette Alexander, former Ward 7 D.C. council member who served from 2007-2017, said. “Contee is a son of the city and he knows the city and its culture. He started in the police department as a cadet and he has risen through the ranks. He is respected by his fellow officers and in the community.”
If confirmed as the next police chief, Contee faces a rise in the District’s homicide rate, carjackings and armed robbery. Many residents and city leaders echo Alexander’s thoughts. Many feel Contee can do the job; no council member or major organization has announced opposition to his confirmation. However, as advisory neighborhood commission 8C chairman Salim Adofo said, Contee must produce results.
“There are three things I want Contee to do,” Adofo said. “I want him to change the culture of policing. Punishing people isn’t always the answer. I believe the police should help people make better decisions regarding their lives. The police can educate the community on how they perform their duties and not just show up when there is a problem. Second, Contee should have his officers get out of their squad cars and walk the community. The officers will get the chance to know people in the community and the people will get to know them. Third, I would like for him to be more visible in the city not just at news conference or homicide scenes. He should consider raising his social media presence, also. Contee should be someone that members of the community can relate to.”
Gordon-Andrew Fletcher serves as the advisory neighborhood commissioner for district 5A08, near the Fort Totten Metro Station in Northeast. Fletcher said in his neighborhood, there has been an uptick in crime and noted a drive-by shooting took place there recently.
“Crime has become more rampant in my area with carjackings and guns being recovered,” he said. “I don’t put this all on the Metropolitan Police Department. We need other agencies to get involved too, such as the DDOT (D.C. Department of Transportation). Perhaps they could install more speed bumps on our streets.”
Fletcher agreed with Adofo that Contee should make his officers more proactive in the District’s neighborhoods.
“In my area, we need more police officers,” he said,” and they should interact more with the community. Not just with council members but with community leaders such as advisory neighborhood commissioners and community association presidents. The police officers should listen to what the residents are telling them. I realize that every area is different. However, there are some places that have similar problems. There are parts of Ward 5 that look like parts of Ward 8. Basically, we need officers to patrol the neighborhoods and meet the residents.”
Former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown said Contee becoming the chief “is long overdue.”
“I believed he was poised to be the chief for a number of years,” Brown, a Democrat who served as an at-large council member from 2005-2011 and as the council’s chair from 2011-2012, said. “He has integrity, the ability to understand the community and is a native Washingtonian. However, in order to be effective, you will have to be tough. He will have balance his toughness with fairness. People in this city are tired of crime and they will want him to clamp down on it.”