Political and community leaders in the District of Columbia remembered the late Issac Fulwood Jr., a former chief of the city’s police department, as a man who approached his job professionally and loved his hometown and its people.
Issac Fulwood Jr. served as the District’s police chief from 1989-1992. (Photo courtesy of MPD)
Fulwood died on Sept. 1 of undisclosed causes at the age of 77. D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham tweeted on Sept. 1 about Fulwood’s death. “On behalf of all of the men and women of MPD (Metropolitan Police Department) our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of Chief Fulwood,” Newsham said.
Funeral arrangements weren’t available by press time.
Fulwood was born in the District on April 28, 1940 and graduated from Eastern Senior High School in 1959. He joined the police department in 1964, an institution that was then majority White even though the city had become majority Black nine years earlier.
Fulwood started off as a beat cop and worked his way to becoming assistant chief of field operations in 1986. D.C. Mayor Marion Barry appointed Fulwood as the District’s third Black police chief in 1989.
Fulwood had an eventful three-year term with a homicide rate in triple digits, the crack epidemic peaking and the arrest of Barry smoking crack in the Vista Hotel on Jan. 18, 1990. Former D.C. Council member Sandy Allen (D-Ward 8) told the AFRO that Fulwood handled a difficult job well.
“He was first of all a humanitarian,” Allen said. “He really cared about the people and understood the laws and the culture of the District of Columbia. Washington, D.C. was predominantly Black and known as ‘Chocolate City’ at that time.
“He was able to guide the police department in a manner that was professional. Plus, he was one of the people he was policing.”
Fulwood stepped down in September 1992. After that, he served as an adjunct professor at the University of the District of Columbia, led a youth initiative on behalf of then D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly and was appointed to the U.S. Parole Commission in 2004 and became its chairman in 2009 before stepping down in 2015.
Fulwood was a resident of Ward 7 when he passed away.
“I am saddened to hear of the death of former MPD Chief Isaac Fulwood and extend my condolences to his family,” Ward 7 Council member Vincent Gray said in a statement. “He was a consummate professional who cared deeply for the city he was raised in. Chief Fulwood made an enormous contribution to the safety of the city during a challenging time, at the height of the crack epidemic.”
Anise Jenkins, a D.C. statehood activist and longtime resident of the District said Fulwood was a steady force in the city.
“He kept things going, “she told the AFRO. “We had trying times in the city at that time. I had a lot of respect for him, because he was for the people.”
Ward 8 advisory neighborhood commissioner Mary Cuthbert, who also serves as the chairman of the Ward 7 Advisory Council to the MPD, was in office during Fulwood’s term as chief and called him “one of our good police chiefs.”
“He will definitely be missed,” Cuthbert told the AFRO. Cuthbert said Fulwood’s credibility in the city was so high that many Blacks didn’t blame him for the arrest of Barry.
“People must remember that it was the FBI and the U.S. Attorney who were responsible for that, not Ike,” she said.
The investigation of Barry started with U.S. Attorney Joseph DiGenova and the mayor was arrested while Jay Stephens, the man who succeeded DiGenova, was in office.
David Clark worked for the MPD for over 26 years before retiring in 2016. He remembered working for Fulwood and said the chief was “a great guy who was very strong and direct.”
“He didn’t play around,” Clark told the AFRO. “You knew what you had to do. He wanted you to do your job.”