News & Politics

DC Mayor Bowser Picks Interim Police Chief to Replace Cathy Lanier

Photograph via iStock.

Peter Newsham, an assistant chief with the Metropolitan Police Department, will take over on an interim basis after Chief Cathy Lanier steps down next month, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a press release Tuesday. The news was first reported by WRC.

Newsham, who has been with the DC police since 1989, has been an assistant chief since 2002 and oversees investigations violent, property, sexual assault, and narcotic crimes. He was one of several assistant chiefs considered to take over for Lanier in the short term, but has been with the department the longest.

Lanier is leaving after nearly a decade in the department’s top role to become the National Football League’s head of security.

As the head of MPD’s investigative division, Newsham has been the department’s highest-profile officer after Lanier, frequently briefing media on homicides, narcotics operations, and other major crimes. He also holds a law degree from the University of Maryland and is admitted to practice in Maryland.

Most recently, Newsham has been seen giving updates on the killing of Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer who was shot dead in the early morning of July 10. Police and Rich’s family have said they believe Rich’s death was the result of a robbery attempt, but it picked up an international following after Wikileaks founder Julian Assange offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to a conviction and turned the case into fodder for conspiracy theorists.

While Rich’s family has asked Wikileaks to back off and Newsham has said there is no evidence to suggest anything conspiratorial, he seemed to welcome the website’s cash offer. “We are very pleased if anyone is going to assist us with the giving of reward money,” Newsham told the Washington Post.

Newsham also made news in January when he publicly disagreed with the Warner Theatre’s policy of refusing to allow off-duty police officers to carry their firearms inside in the wake of last November’s mass shooting at a concert hall in Paris.

Newsham, who graduated from the College of the Holy Cross, has been angling for a top job with a police department for a while. In the past year, he’s been a finalist for police-chief jobs in Phoenix and Bradenton, Florida.

Lanier is scheduled to leave DC police on September 17.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.