Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibilityDC's exasperated chief on crime: 'This is the same movie when I was a boy growing up here' | WJLA
Close Alert

DC's exasperated chief on crime: 'This is the same movie when I was a boy growing up here'

{p}D.C. police chief Robert Contee speaks passionately about the uptick in violence the city has experienced this year on July 23, 2021. (7News){/p}

D.C. police chief Robert Contee speaks passionately about the uptick in violence the city has experienced this year on July 23, 2021. (7News)

Facebook Share IconTwitter Share IconEmail Share Icon
Comment bubble

In a nearly 10-minute tirade at a press conference on Friday afternoon, D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee spoke about a recent crime increase on city streets, challenging the community to help his department break the cycle.

"What I'm asking is that the system... our justice system does its part in terms of making sure that these folks are held accountable," he said. "I'm asking community members, join with me. If you're sick and tired of being sick and tired, join with me."

Chief Contee is a native Washingtonian and has been a Metropolitan Police Department officer for 30 years.

RELATED | 'This is unacceptable:' 2 wounded after gunshots fired near DC restaurants, police say

"This is the same movie," he said. "This is the same movie when I was a boy growing up here. The same movie. When are we gonna do something different?" He's calling for accountability.

"Holding people accountable who make our communities unsafe," he said. "Who make it unsafe for you, for me, and for the people who are out here walking around. Who made it unsafe for Nyiah Courtney over in Ward 8. Who made it unsafe for the young man who lost his life over in Ward 7 last night."

RELATED | 'It's on us': Community gathers to remember Nyiah Courtney, calls for end to gun violence

Contee went on to talk about the department's lack of resources. While Mayor Muriel Bowser has approved overtime for officers, that won't solve the problems of a "shrinking workforce," he said. The department has about 200 fewer officers this year than last.

"I can't work these officers to death," he said. "I'm not going to have them out here making bad decisions, getting involved in use-of-force incidents. We need to make sure that we are a police department, a major city police department in the nation's capital, that we are properly staffed to where it is we need to be."

The mayor and the city council have been at odds this year over the controversial "defund the police" movement.

Contee went on to talk about how COVID-19 has affected the number of criminals on city streets.

"Let's think about the individuals who we locked up in 2020, during COVID, that have not been through a judicial process," he said. "Where do you think those individuals are today? They're out in [the] community. They're out in [the] community right now. Individuals who have been locked up for violent crimes, individuals who have been locked up with firearms. They're in our communities today."

RELATED | With an uptick in violent crime in DC, argument over police defunding resurfaces

The chief also discussed the impact of the city's mindset on marijuana, when asked about what kind of an impact drugs are having on crime.

"We have taken on a mindset that marijuana is not really, it's not really a big issue in our city," he said. "I can tell you that marijuana is undoubtedly connected to violent crimes that we're seeing in our communities." He said the monetary reward for drug dealers is high, while the risk for accountability is low.

D.C. has decriminalized possession of up to two ounces of marijuana for those over the age of 21.

"That creates a very, very, very, very, very bad situation, because those individuals get robbed, those individuals get shot at, those individuals get involved in disputes all across our city," he said. "I'm seeing it happen more and more all across our city in all different wards."

The chief says he's heard stories about people carrying scales and measuring out the cannabis "to the T" so they can be sure they are carrying less than required to be prosecuted.

When asked about tempering community fears this weekend, when the weather forecast is good and people will undoubtedly be out and about, Contee said "every available resource" the department has will be used for either patrolling or investigating the outstanding cases.

"I want the community to know that I stand by them, that I'm with them," he said. "And I'm asking the community to also be with me on this issue. My voice is one voice, but I'm asking the community to help amplify what's really happening in our streets."

There have been 108 homicides in D.C. this year. There were 106 at the same point last year. In 2020, homicides were up about 20% from 2019, when there were 166.

You can watch Chief Contee's full remarks in the video below.

Comment bubble

Loading ...