Bowser Names Interim Police Chief Ahead Of Tough Search For Replacement

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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The mayor of Washington, D.C., named Assistant Chief Peter Newsham to serve as interim chief of police before officials begin the potentially daunting effort of replacing Chief Cathy Lanier.

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Tuesday Newsham, a 27-year veteran of the force, will step up to assume the responsibilities of outgoing Chief of Police Lanier on September 17. Newsham, who became assistant police chief in 2002, serves as the head of the Investigative Services Bureau and the Metropolitan Police Department’s (MPD) internal affairs and disciplinary reviews, reports WJLA.

Newsham will serve indefinitely while Bowser searches for a new police chief, a process that may prove contentious. Bowser wants to nominate someone internally instead of looking nationally, while members of the police union think all options should be on the table. Lanier, who is leaving for a job with the NFL, enjoyed public popularity but did not have strong support within the department, according to reports. (RELATED: DC Police Chief Wasn’t So Popular Within Her Own Department)

“Like Chief Lanier, Peter has deep roots serving the District and believes in the power of building relationships with communities as the best way to deter and solve crime,” Bowser said in a statement. “He is a police officer of the highest caliber and is extremely qualified to serve as the Interim Chief of Police while we conduct the search for a permanent replacement.”

Bowser’s future nominee will have to withstand review from the D.C. Council, which is expected to be tough on the mayor following a number of failed nominations over the past year. Bowser’s nominee to lead the city’s mental health services resigned after one month in April, following reports questioning his past experience and effectiveness. Dr. Jullette Saussy resigned her post as medical director of D.C.’s fire department after only seven months in the position, blasting the District government’s “highly toxic” safety culture.

For members of the police union critical of Lanier’s leadership, her departure is a chance to internally reform the MPD. The union held a vote of no confidence in Lanier last summer that found 97.5 percent of officers had little faith in her leadership. Roughly 1,150 of the 3,600 officers on the force at the time participated in the vote.

Lanier alienated many officers when she eliminated drug squads at the MPD, which critics argue are crucial to solving violent crimes. A significant amount of retirements in the last few years have shrunk the police force, with many blaming the early departures on Lanier’s leadership style.

“994 officers have fled in just two and a half years, and morale has never been worse,” Gregg Pemberton, treasurer of the D.C. Police Union, told FOX5. “Hopefully the mayor will use this opportunity to conduct a nationwide search with all stakeholders, including the union, involved in the selection process. This way we can move forward in the hopes we can rebuild the MPD.”

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