DC Safe Surrender 2011 – An Interview with Assistant MPD Chief Peter Newsham

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Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2011/07/dc-safe-surrender-2011-an-interview-with-assistant-mpd-chief-peter-newsham/

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[Audio Begins]

Cedric Hendricks: Hello. This is Cedric Hendricks and this is DC Public Safety.  Today we’re going to be talking about DC Safe Surrender with Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Chief, Peter Newsham. Welcome to DC Safe Surrender.

Peter Newsham:: Thank you Cedric.

Cedric Hendricks: Chief, can you tell us how many warrants there are outstanding in the District of Columbia and the types of warrants that you see?

Peter Newsham:  We have over 600 felony warrants that are outstanding.  The biggest category of cases that we have is misdemeanor bench warrants and there’s more than 12,000 of those, so that’s significant.  And then we have another category which is other warrants, is about 1,000.  So all told, we have more than 14,000 warrants outstanding.

Cedric Hendricks: And then one of the functions that the police department plays is arresting people on warrants.  And how does that typically happen?

Peter Newsham:  Absolutely.  We have warrant squads and that’s their function is to go out and find folks who are wanted on all of these warrants, you know, any warrant would come into play.  The other way, as you know, that people can be arrested when they have warrants outstanding on them is if they come into contact with a police officer.  It could be something as simple as a traffic accident.  They could be involved in a traffic accident, we run their name, their license and lo and behold if they have a warrant, we’re required to take them into custody.

Cedric Hendricks: Now can executing a warrant be a risky proposition for a police officer?

Peter Newsham:  Well, it can be, you know, because you don’t know what to expect when you’re serving a warrant.  They serve all kinds of warrants.  There’s been some very profile cases where officers have been either injured or killed serving warrants.  So there is, you know, the police have to be prepared for that potential eventuality is that it ends up becoming a violent confrontation.  Most of the folks, I would suspect that are wanted on the misdemeanor bench warrants would not pose that threat, but the officers don’t know that so they have to be prepared for those kinds of things.

Cedric Hendricks: Now DC Safe Surrender offers an opportunity for individuals with non-violent felony warrants, misdemeanor warrants, to turn themselves in.  So what do you see as the public safety benefit of an event like this that provides an opportunity.

Peter Newsham:  Well first of all, I mean it’s a benefit to the individual.  They can get this thing off of their back essentially.  They don’t have to be concerned about it hanging over their head.  You don’t, it’s very inconvenient to have a warrant served on you if you’re doing something, for example, at a family function, traveling somewhere, we’re going to take you into custody and you’re going to have to go through that process.  If you come down here one of these Saturdays in August, you can resolve the matter.  Once the matter is resolved, it’s resolved forever.  As far as a public safety piece for us, the value that we see is that, you know, we have these warrant squads that are out there and in some cases, they are trying to apprehend folks who are violent.  And they’re trying to evade capture.  Like I said, I don’t think the large majority of the folks that have these non-violent cases are in that category, but if we’re able to get some of those folks to come in, it frees up our warrant squad to get some of the more violent folks.  And that’s a benefit to everybody, to get the violent people off the streets.

Cedric Hendricks: Now one of the significant aspects of DC Safe Surrender is a collaboration of law enforcement agencies within the District of Columbia.  How important is that in the success of an endeavor like this?

Peter Newsham:  Oh, it’s very important and we’re very fortunate in the district because of the relationships that we have.  As you know, we have the local Metropolitan police, but we have a lot of federal agencies, the CSOSA, pre-trial services,  US Attorney’s Office, the Office of the Attorney General and all these folks, the courts of course.  All of these folks come into play.  And like I said, we had a relationship prior to going into the Safe Surrender Operation.  We had a Safe Surrender, as you know, about three years ago which was very successful.  But having those relationships is really critical to making the city safe.

Cedric Hendricks: Well now you mentioned the Safe Surrender back in 2007, I believe it was.  And it’s my understandingthat there were about 530 individuals that turned themselves in.  What is your hope as we approach Safe Surrender this time around, in terms of the success?  What would be a successful outcome as you said?

Peter Newsham:  Well, it’s going to be successful if we get any number of people to turn themselves in, a significant number of people you know?  If we get hundreds of people to turn themselves in, fantastic; If we get thousands of people to turn themselves in, even better.  You know, like I told you, being able to free up the warrant squads that are working in the city to go after the most violent people is really what the police department, I think it’s what most people expect the police department to do.

Cedric Hendricks: Well, we thank you for your participation here today.  This has been Cedric Hendricks talking with Metropolitan Police Department, Assistant Chief Peter Newsham about DC Safe Surrender.

[Audio Ends]

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