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When news broke last week that 17 officers who had been terminated for various acts of misconduct were rehired because of administrative foul-ups, the D.C. Police Department called on a familiar face to take the brunt of reporters’ questions: Assistant Chief Peter Newsham.
Newsham has become the department’s expert in crisis management. In 2002, he took the heat from the Pershing Park debacle, when scores of people—some of them anti-globalization types and some of them onlookers and tourists—were rounded up, arrested, and hogtied. He was the officer in charge who ordered the arrests that day.
Now, Newsham, by virtue of his leadership in Internal Affairs, was being asked to explain how the department blew deadlines in issuing its terminations.
By the end of the week, Police Chief Cathy Lanier had moved to re-fire the 17 officers. On Monday, the number officers reinstated over administrative mistakes had climbed to 24, according to police spokesperson Traci Hughes. The additional seven officers were also being considered for re-firing. All 24 have been placed on desk duty.
The police union argues that police officials need to be held accountable—including Newsham. “I can’t wait for them to have hearings,” says the FOP’s Kristopher Baumann. And of Newsham: “If anyone is going to be responsible management-wise, that would be one individual.”
“Am I worried about being disciplined?” Newsham says. “We’ll obviously get to the bottom of that. If I were in some way responsible for this, I would expect to be disciplined.”