EDITORIAL: The Legend of Chief Isaac Fulwood Jr.

So much can be said of Isaac Fulwood Jr. the former chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, who was laid to rest this week, at age 77, following a long illness. During his homegoing service, held Monday at Ebenezer AME Church in Ft. Washington, Maryland, much was said in honor of the man so many looked up to and admired for his service to law enforcement, faith and family.

Chief Fulwood was a native Washingtonian, who attended D.C. Public Schools. He joined the Metropolitan Police Department in 1964 at a time when Black officers could not ride in police cars. Some attributed his commitment to community policing from that period when he earned his rise in the ranks from his early days of walking the beat along D.C.’s streets where he got to know the residents he served and helped to keep the peace. And rise through the ranks he did, from community service officer to sergeant, then lieutenant, captain, assistant chief and finally in 1989 he was named Chief of Police by Mayor for Life Marion Barry, who Fulwood later sent to jail on federal drug charges.

Chief Fulwood notably faced one of the most tumultuous periods of high crime and rising murder rates in the city’s history due to the notorious crack epidemic. The District infamously became known as the murder capitol of the nation forcing a mass hiring by Fulwood of more than 1,000 police officers. He was later criticized for bringing individuals onto the force who went foul with the law, but MPD Chief Peter Newsham, who was one of those recruits, told mourners some of them went on to lead distinguished careers within MPD including former Assistant Chief Diane Grooms, Assistant Chiefs Robert Contee, Michael Anzalla, Kimberly Chisley-Missouri and former Chief Cathy Lanier.

Isaac Fulwood was a family man, a man’s man, and a man filled with a strong faith and love for God. He deeply believed in the effectiveness of prevention and rehabilitation but he was not averse to incarceration when it was necessary. With hundreds of fellow police officers joining family and friends there to bid Chief Fulwood farewell, it will now be up to them and city leaders to keep the legend of Chief-for-Life Isaac Fulwood alive. His life offers enormous lessons and examples of leadership and service we all can learn from and live by. RIP.

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