We wish we could say for sure congratulations to Robert Contee III for being confirmed as the permanent chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, but the D.C. Council’s confirmation vote is not expected before our publication goes to press this week. Still, for the record, we support his confirmation and look forward to the reform measures he has planned to ensure accountability for the 3,640-member police force and make the community safer for District residents.
Since former Chief Peter Newsham, a veteran MPD officer of more than 30 years, announced his resignation last December after serving as chief for three years, residents and MPD members have anxiously awaited Contee’s official step into his new role. Also, a member of MPD since 1992 after becoming a cadet in 1989 while attending Spingarn High School, Contee is undoubtedly the perfect prescription for a department that is declining in numbers and has become increasingly demoralized over the past 20 years.
Contee knows MPD about as well as, if not better than, anyone in D.C. He knows and came through the ranks under some of MPD’s most renowned chiefs, including Burtell Jefferson (D.C.’s first Black police chief), Maurice Turner, and Isaac Fulwood, to name a few. As a kid, he spent summers at Camp Ernest Brown, a summer oasis for D.C. youth run by MPD in Scotland, Md. In high school, he enjoyed listening to the music of MPD’s Side by Side Band that visited every elementary through high school across the city. What worked then to ensure positive community-police relations can work now, Contee believes, and the results are mutually beneficial.
Just like the community wants a police department that is engaged, responsive, and compassionate to their concerns and needs, Contee also wants a police department that is engaged, responsive and empathetic to its officers. As he travels across the city, either in person or via Zoom, from one community meeting to another, asking residents what they believe will ensure better service from MPD, he is also working to provide his officers with the mental and emotional support they need to perform their jobs adequately.
Thank you, Mayor Bowser, for choosing Robert Contee III for D.C.’s next police chief and to the D.C. Council for confirming him. It is an opportunity he is prepared for and deserves.