Chief Peter Newsham

Chief Peter Newsham

Prince William County Police Chief Peter Newsham said he wants to create a department ready to embrace coming reforms.

Newsham and top department officials spoke with Supervisor Andrea Bailey, D-Potomac, during a virtual town hall on Tuesday.

Newsham, who has more than 31 years of law enforcement experience and will be paid $215,000 a year, spoke briefly during the Feb. 2 Board of Supervisors meeting, but Tuesday was his longest public offering since taking office on Feb. 1.

“We’re not deaf and we’re not blind to the calls for reform,” he said. “I think in the coming years we’re going to see some pretty dramatic reforms in policing."

Newsham’s hiring has been controversial among progressive county residents, with some calling for his ouster.

Newsham was chief of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., from 2017 to Jan. 1, overseeing a department of 4,500 employees. He was selected for the Prince William job from a pool of 50 applicants and will oversee about 700 sworn officers.

The controversy surrounding Newsham harkens to his time in D.C. and the civil unrest that occurred in summer 2020 following a string of high-profile killings of Black people at the hands of police. Newsham has said the criticism he received is par for the course of any high-profile police chief.

Many of Bailey’s questions, which were largely provided by constituents, focused on equity within the department and its interactions with the community.

According to MPD data, Black officers made up a plurality of the department’s roughly 4,000 sworn officers. In Prince William County, on the other hand, Black residents make up about 22% of the county’s population but just 10% of the county’s police officers are Black. About 25% of the county’s residents are Hispanic, but just 11% of its cops are.

To boost diversity, Newsham said he plans to reach out to community leaders who can help point young people of color into policing. He said young people can help lead change within the department.

Regarding civilian police oversight, which has been proposed for the county, Newsham said officers should not oppose “fair and objective” oversight. A civilian review board would be able to examine complaints against officers.

“It’s nothing to be afraid of,” he said. “If you’re doing your job right, anybody should be able to look at what you’re doing and community oversight might validate our officers and what they’re doing in our community.” Newsham said body cameras are “invaluable to give an objective accounting” of police interactions. The county has started using body cameras, but not all officers are issued one.

Newsham said that the department needs to have a “very thorough vetting” of all hirings to ensure the department isn’t hiring people with biases to address racial equity. He said the department also needs to emphasize bias training.

Newsham commended the county’s co-responder unit, which assists the department during mental health crises. The team includes an emergency services clinician and a crisis-intervention certified police officer. The county’s proposed budget for fiscal 2022, which starts July 1, includes funding to expand the program.

Activists have said Newsham resisted calls for more transparency within the district’s police department and had a contentious relationship with a progressive D.C. City Council.

During his tenure, MPD was sued multiple times by the American Civil Liberties Union, notably in 2018 for failing to adequately collect data on its so-called “stop-and-frisk” practice. The practice has been widely shown to disproportionately affect Black people throughout the country.

A judge ruled MPD had violated a city transparency law by not collecting and distributing a racial breakdown of stops made by the police department. When the information was released after a court order, it showed that a disproportionate number of police stops in Washington involved Black residents. At the time, Newsham said the data did not accurately represent the department’s activities.

As of Tuesday, it was unclear if the Prince William County Police Department uses stop and frisk.

In June 2020, Newsham said MPD officers felt “completely abandoned” by the D.C. City Council and pushed back on calls to remove resources from the department.

“I think we need to think carefully and thoughtfully before we do a politically correct, knee-jerk reaction to what’s going on in other parts of the country and all of a sudden downsize the size of our police department. That’s how I feel,” Newsham told WTOP at the time.

Similar defund movements in Prince William County haven’t gained traction with the Board of Supervisors.

Around the same time, WUSA reported that Newsham was critical of recently passed police reform legislation by the D.C. council. The new law banned chokeholds and speeded up the release of body-worn camera footage in police shootings. He said insinuations that the department wasn’t open to reform or moving forward were “deflating."

Newsham said Tuesday that D.C. saw about 1,000 protests in 2020, but “very few of those resulted in any type of police action.”

To avoid heavy police responses to protests, Newsham said the department needs to coordinate with organizers to facilitate their events and allow things to run smoothly. He said MPD had “difficulty” in the summer when “property was being destroyed” and “people were being injured.” At that point, he said, the department has “a responsibility to intervene and restore order."

Newsham appeared critical of federal law enforcement aggressively dispersing peaceful protests from Lafayette Park in June 2020, according to USA Today. The square across from the White House was cleared before a city curfew so President Donald Trump could walk to a historic church across the street for a photo shoot.

MPD was not involved with the actions at Lafayette Park, but did arrest more than 300 people throughout the city in the protests surrounding the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers.

Nolan Stout covers Prince William County. Reach him at nstout@insidenova.com or @TheNolanStout on Facebook and Twitter.

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(12) comments

John Deer 3

First of all, give the man a chance to lead and move our police department forward. The only police chief that would be considered a "good one" in DC, is one who bowed to every beck and call, and every extremist demand of the outlandish city government. Chief Newsham had morals, abundant experience, isn't an idiot and didn't cave to unethical pressure; so naturally he had a contentious relationship with some of the DC Council; all you have to do is listen to a few of them to understand.

PWC has long enjoyed having one of the best law enforcement agencies in the country, no they are not perfect - no person, profession or…law enforcement agency is. Any outlandish changes forced upon the PWC Police Dept because of far-left Politian’s bowing to loudmouth extremist and special interest groups, pose the risk of turning Prince William, into Prince Georges; if that's what the citizens of the county want, so be it - you all voted these folks into office. But anyone with a half a brain would see what we have here is better than good, and changes should be made to improve, not tear down the public safety in this county. Yes, we need to keep up with the times and in order to continuing being one of the best, our police department should be toward the front.

Want to recruit more non-white cops? You sure as hell made that difficult – the last two years police have been demonized to the extreme, you think any young black person coming out of school or college is going to go down to the police department and pick up an application? Of course not. They will be disowned, patronized, and an outcast in many of their inner circles, families, and with friends; you cant have your cake and eat it too. The over demonization of police IS THE DIRECT CAUSE in the current low numbers of minority applicants in law enforcement.

The county government was well on their way to meet the 'defund' demands this past year, by immediately cutting any pay raise for public safety, cutting police staff positions, refusing - and continuing to refuse COVID 19 hazard/hardship compensation for essential workers (the ones who actually have to get off the couch, come to work and face a significantly higher risk than they did prior to 11 months ago), etc. We will see if any of this is rectified in the FY22 budget. Even though federal dollars is approved to be used for much of these expenses; apparently the multi-millions of dollars has already been "earmarked" for social services, so there is "no money available" for public safety COVID 19 hazard/hardship pay. I mean after all, what’s 1-2k a month in childcare on a firefighter, EMT or cops salary? ….since schools are closed and the ones who have to come and handle every one else’s daily problems, now have an added burden of how to ensure their children are getting an education, worry about whether or not they are they going to take COVID home to their families, worry about ending up a statistic and joining the number of countless responders who have already died from COVID subsequent to dealing with the public every day. “All county employees are essential" is the response from county leadership regarding compensating Public Safety. Essential employees include the ones who have not left their couch for the last 11 months and have a lesser risk than they did pre-covid. But at least the essential admin assistant who is teleworking doesn’t have to pay childcare, so all is well.

This article is not an example of neutral and impartial reporting of the facts; in order to graduate journalist school (is that a thing? If so, what exactly are they teaching nowadays), 'journalists' should be required to read the book Cronkite. And for those who have not watched the movie Idiocracy, we are at warp speed headed toward a country lead by President Camacho.

I for one am thankful for the responders in my community who have been there for my family, especially over the last few years enduring all of the crap and lack of support from local leaders. This is yet another testament to the rare breed who have the drive to serve others, an attribute less than 3% of all humans actually put to use. I would suggest be cautious – you reap what you sew, is an appropriate matra.

toomanypeople

Do you remember DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier? Fifteen to twenty years ago, she pushed to hire minority officers. How did that go? I don't recall ever reading any glowing reviews of that effort. Just saying...

Diego

Uh Oh... Is the new Chief going to bring DC “equitable hiring practices to Prince William like hiring convicted criminals and drug users for PWPD? We already have an excellent Police Academy established by Charlie Dean that includes weeding out unsuitable candidates. There isn’t any problem that needs to be “fixed”. Just a bunch of new politicians on the Board of Supervisors who need the public to think their “doing something “ about a nonexistent problem.

Hawkeye10

10/4

The only thing I'll add is the department should continue to continue to recruit qualified bi-lingual candidates as best they can. But as far as race, give it a Fucking rest. But they wont! You know what government does best? They use race to make sure people in office, and public servants "reflect the values and population of the community." So whats the easiest way to do that? Ask the democrats, run campaigns based off race, find your identity in race, continue to believe your a "minority" in the year 2021. How in the hell else do you think they will be able to continue this division? The easiest way, divide us based on they way we LOOK. Not they way we think, act, speak, believe, and worship. No way, protege. The easiest way to control the population is by dividing us, not uniting us. So well write ya a repatriations check, even though we are a morally and fiscally bankrupt economy. But here, heres some U.S. dollars, that ought to help. Low interest rates to keep the mobster banks going, and inflation as big as the Goodyear blimp. You think the barb wired fencing in D.C. with N.G. is to remain into the Fall @ the Capitol for looks? Our economy is about to shit the bed, and at some point Mrs. Communi-Harris will be our new Commi-in-Chief. Joey is just a mere placeholder once they get the ball rolling the way they intend. 25th amendment, stay tuned.

The Commonwealth of Virginia is just in its beginning stages where the white man, woman, and child will be ashamed of themselves for their skin color. At least, thats what they will be taught in schools. Because its the white man and solely the white man who owned slaves in American history.....Its not like the indigenous population had slaves. They would never do that! Right?

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Wake Up & Smell The Coffee!

@Hawkeye- Random thoughts... I've never had a patient ask for a referral to "A surgeon who helped make the quota. Or one who reflects the values and population of the community. Or my tennis partner.

not into politics

[smile]

Hawkeye10

I think your m0cking me...

[lol]

OBLUE

nothing wrong with our police force why mess with it,why hate on the new guy he did real well at hios last job as for more spanish police officers look at ms13 good canidates for Godssakewhy mess with a good thing if it aint broke dont fix it

yorktown2021

Nolan....Daily Progress fake reporter LMAO...is this a promotion or demotion coming over to inside nova in the propaganda business? By looks of you, it doesn’t appear you’ve hit puberty yet.

yorktown2021

This article is so insanely biased and contains no less than 6 outright fabrications and lies. I guess you’re not called the fake news for nothing. Nolan Stout, do some soul searching buddy!

timt

"contains no less than 6 outright fabrications and lies"

What are they? Please share your expertise and insider knowledge.

Wake Up & Smell The Coffee!

You can't tell what was wrong with this "reporting"? That tells me you're not prone to listening to facts either.

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