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Washington police veteran named chief; to work with residents to combat crime

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Washington police veteran Peter Newsham was named chief of the District of Columbia's department on Thursday, taking over one of the highest-profile U.S. forces as it faces a years-long upturn in homicides.

Newsham, 52, had served as interim chief of the U.S. capital's 3,800-strong Metropolitan Police Department since September, when he took over from Cathy Lanier, who left to become head of security for the National Football League. As interim chief, Newsham oversaw the deployment of body-worn cameras to all patrol officers.

Newsham told a city hall news conference that trust was the cornerstone of U.S. policing and that his department would continue its policy of community policing, or working with residents to combat crime.

"When you call us we will come, and when we come we will come to help," he said, adding that challenges for the department included retaining officers and replacing aging command staff.

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Newsham was an assistant chief during Lanier's nine-year stint heading the department when she turned it into a national model for community policing.

The department is one of the major agencies in the Washington area's vast security apparatus. The force helps provide security for presidential motorcades and was a key player in Republican Donald Trump's presidential inauguration last month.

Newsham, a Massachusetts native who joined the department in 1989, had headed the department's Investigative Services Bureau before becoming interim chief. He holds a law degree and had run the department's internal affairs unit.

Newsham becomes chief as the District of Columbia has seen an upturn in homicides. After falling to a half-century low of 88 in 2012, the number of homicides reached 135 last year. The city has recorded 14 this year, about the same pace as in 2016.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

 
 
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