WASHINGTON - D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham and other department leaders addressed officers on Friday in a private conversation at the Martin Luther King Memorial. The meeting came after a week of local and nationwide protests in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of officers in Minneapolis.
FOX 5's Bob Barnard said that during the private meeting Friday morning police leaders told officers that if they were not troubled by what they saw happen to George Floyd to turn in their badges and guns.
"It was a private conversation," said Chief Newsham after he made his remarks. "There's a lot of emotions running through our police department right now, personal emotion, frustrations about what is going on in our country. There's a lot of anger about what we saw happen to George Floyd. There's a lot of sadness about what we saw happen to our city."
Newsham said the private meeting was designed for officers to vent and for them to receive guidance from those in charge
Newsham also referenced a social media post from Virginia Ali, owner of Ben's Chili Bowl, the iconic restaurant that has endured in Northwest, D.C. for decades. Newsham said in that Ali's post on Instagram spoke about the time she spent with civil right leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and said King was not only an agent for change but an agent for peace.
The meeting of about 100 to 150 officers lasted about an hour. "We're going to have this conversation. When we're done -- we're going to go back to work because we still have some work to do," Newsham said.
"We know that this protest and the people, the frustration that we've seen, its years of built up frustration that has occurred in communities of color for many, many, many years," said Assistant Chief Robert Contee.
"The conversation is bigger than George Floyd and I think that as an African-American male who was born and raised in this city that I have a responsibility -- not only to my law enforcement officers -- but to the greater community to just really speak honestly and openly with them about what we expect from them as law enforcement officers," Contee continued. "You know, when we signed up for this job, we have a responsibility to make sure that we ensure justice for all and that's important. And this gave us an opportunity to really kind of drive that point home with some of our officers." Contee also said he hopes the actions of the officers in Minneapolis do not overshadow the work D.C. police do in communities across the District.