For Immediate Release: 
April 6, 2017
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Committed to a different approach to public safety, Grosso votes against Newsham nomination to be Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso on his opposition to the nomination of Peter Newsham to serve as the permanent chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD):

“Over the past month, the Committee on the Judiciary held three hearings on Newsham’s nomination. In addition to those who testified, I heard from numerous constituents via phone, email, and social media about this decision, and I am thankful to all of them for their engagement on an issue as important as this.

“As I thought about what it means to pick a new chief of police, I heard the praise and the criticism for the nominee. I take both of those very seriously.

“But, I also came to realize that I have a different vision in mind—that this vote is an opportunity to imagine what kind of police department we want to have, and what kind of leader will move us toward that goal.

“There are competing visions about the role of the police in our society, as well as different perspectives about what public safety means. I have seen it in my work as Chairperson of the Committee on Education, as we move away from “zero tolerance” approaches to school discipline, and instead implement restorative justice practices in our schools. We have seen a shift on the Council and among residents with the move away from criminalizing drugs, to removing criminal penalties and focusing on addiction and treatment services as the appropriate response.

“I feel strongly that it is time for a similar overhaul in our approach to policing—a transformation of the MPD into an agency whose highest priorities include promoting non-violence and collaborating deeply with the community and neighborhoods.

“Such a transformation would mean a department would have a spotless track record of internal accountability, and a culture of intervention by officers when they see a colleague doing something wrong. It would be about recognizing that people in the community should be leaders in creating a safer environment, with support of the police, not the other way around.

“A shift like this would require police leadership to see that there are very deep-seated problems with how law enforcement operates in this city, and rising to the challenge of changing the paradigm.

“To be sure, this kind of change would require hard work by the entire city, but the leadership of the MPD is vitally important.

“Leadership was the focus of a number of the witnesses during the hearings, and as an elected official, the meaning of leadership is constantly on my mind, especially in the new national political climate. At a time when the leaders in the highest ranks of the government openly espouse bigotry, flout the rule of law, and disrespect human rights, I believe we need to go the extra mile to counteract those messages and actions.

“Maybe my expectations are too high, but based on some of the feedback I have heard, our constituents are hungering for a chief of police who is visionary and transformative, and can think outside of the box.

“Unfortunately, I do not believe that this nominee fits that profile.

“I remain committed to a very different vision of what policing and public safety can be, and I am committed to working with the new chief to promote these values, and the values that we heard from so many witnesses during this process around police accountability, bolstering our sanctuary city policies, promoting non-violence, decreasing arrests, and ending the perception that more police will solve our problems.”