Several D.C. community leaders and members testify for Acting Police Chief Pamela A. Smith at her first council nomination hearing. Though responses were overall positive, some residents were concerned about her previous work experience not being enough to qualify her for the job during a time of heightened crime for D.C. (Photo Courtesy of Metropolitan Police Department)

By Tashi McQueen,
AFRO Political Writer,

Pamela A. Smith was nominated as the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) police chief in July by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and recently began the official confirmation process through the D.C. Council. Smith would become the first African-American woman to be D.C. police chief– if she is fully confirmed by the council. 

“I approach this assignment with commitment and a strong sense of responsibility for leading the men and women of our great police department,” said Smith at the Sept. 27  public roundtable held by the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety. “Since my first day as the acting chief of police, I have been working with the MPD team and our partners to develop and deploy tactics that will help us to interrupt these patterns and make our streets safer for everyone in Washington, D.C.”

Smith highlighted her implementation of the violent crime suppression initiative, which initially focused on robberies and carjackings, after becoming acting police chief.

This process comes as D.C. is experiencing a rise in crime, as Chairwoman Brooke Pinto recognized.

“This nomination comes at a crucial time for MPD in the midst of a spike in both violent crime and property crime, which coincides with a hiring and retention crisis for the department,” said Pinto. “This is the third year in a row that we’ve exceeded 200 homicides in a given year, and the first time in 25 years that we reached this number by October.”

According to the MPD, as of Oct. 10, there have been 218 homicides in 2023 – a 38 percent increase from 2022.

There was an overall positive reaction to Smith from residents and community leaders who testified at the roundtable.

“When I reached out to her [Smith], she was very responsive. I set up a series of community porch meetings for her to come and sit with community residents and have them ask her questions,” said Cherita Whiting, chair of the Ward 4 Education Council. “On this particular day, Smith received several phone calls from violence that was happening across our city. She didn’t waver from the folks she had in front of her as she continued receiving multiple phone calls.”

Some community leaders referred to Smith’s 25 years of service in law enforcement experience as their confidence in her ability to do the job. 

“She’s competent with over 25 years of law enforcement experience,” said Kenneth Rioland Jr. of Paramount Baptist Church. “Not only is she competent, but she’s an effective communicator. I watched the room shift as she communicated her concerns and convictions to those who were listening.”

Some residents believe her experience does not qualify her for the job.

“I’m here to ask you not to confirm Muriel Bowser’s choice for chief of police,” said Brian M. Mulholland, a resident of Ward 6. “When crime is at a high, she chooses a park ranger when we need a marine general at war.”

Smith has served as chief equity officer for MPD and the chief of police for the United States Park Police. Most of her experience comes from her years with the United States Park Police.

Pinto ended the session with favorable comments on Smith, seemingly looking to push her nomination forward, though no vote was taken. There are plans to vote and finalize Smith as the MPD police chief on Oct. 24. 

“I’m inspired by the depth of experiences you’ve been able to draw upon, not only from your personal experience, but also your professional experience inside MPD, working with the District,” said Pinto.