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Prince William County Activists Furious About Pick For New Police Chief

Woodbridge, VA – Residents of Prince William County who are furious lawmakers chose DC Police Chief Peter Newsham to head their police department staged a protest on Tuesday outside the government center.

DC Police Chief Peter Newsham, who has headed the police force in the nation’s capital since February of 2017, announced his imminent departure from the DC Metropolitan Police Department in late November, WRC reported.

Chief Newsham announced he would be taking the helm of the Prince William County Police Department, located about 20 miles south of Washington, DC.

While many expressed surprised at the chief’s announcement that he would be leaving DC as soon as the Inauguration events were completed in January, it wasn’t entirely unexpected.

Chief Newsham has repeatedly faced off with the city council in recent months over police tactics with violent activists and was dealt a massive budget cut of $15 million aimed at satisfying proponents of defunding the police.

At the same time they voted to defund their police department, the DC City Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety voted to limit the term of a DC police chief to 4 years.

The members of the committee said the chief’s position carried too much power and the top cop should have be evaluated and re-nominated by the mayor four years into their job if there was a consideration to continue the department under their leadership, WUSA reported.

Chief Newsham was due to hit the four-year mark in February and would have had to be nominated by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and go through the confirmation process again to stay on as chief.

Adding insult to injury, a week before he announced his plans to retire, the city council ordered the police chief to start justifying all of the overtime for officers amid months of violent riots in the city.

Getting Chief Newsham to come aboard as their new police chief was a boon to the Prince William County Police Department, which many felt would benefit from the new chief’s prior big-city experience.

But a vocal group was outraged by the selection made after the county conducted a nation-wide search, and pointed to the DC chief’s handling of violent protests for the past six months, WRC reported.

That group was protesting outside the building where the Prince William Board of Supervisors was meeting on Dec. 15.

The protesters chanted “DC didn’t want him, we don’t either” and waved signs at passing cars, WTOP reported.

“The amount of force used by D.C. police, the amount of racial profiling in a county where we already have a problem with racial profiling, it’s only going to get worse,” Prince William County resident Aida Campos told WRC.

The the majority of officers in the DC Metropolitan Police Department are black.

The group opposing Chief Newsham’s appointment has collected 2,000 signatures on petitions that demanded the board terminate his hiring, deal with racial profiling, and respect the rights of Black Lives Matter protesters.

“He’s done a horrible job in D.C.,” Nancy Lyall, who helped put together the petition, told WTOP. “We don’t need someone coming in that’s got experience with racial profiling. We need somebody who can help this county, not hurt it.”

But Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chair Ann Wheeler stood confident in the choice they’d made.

Wheeler pointed to Chief Newsham’s experience running a diverse police department and credited him with a reduction in use of force in DC, WTOP reported.

Chief Newsham didn’t seem bothered by the uproar over his hiring, WRC reported.

“So if there are folks out there who are critical of me either here in the district or in Prince William County, they can rest assured I will listen to that criticism. If that criticism is valid I will adjust accordingly,” he said.

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Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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