By James Wright, Special to the AFRO, [email protected]
Some Ward 8 residents were upset over the abrupt departure of 7D Police Commander Regis Bryant but cooler heads have prevailed as it became apparent why.
On June 8, there was a news conference at 7D headquarters on Alabama Avenue S.E. called by prominent Ward 8 leaders about Bryant’s sudden departure. The leaders initially called the news conference to ask that D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham keep Bryant on and not blame him for the escalating homicide rate in the ward.
“I spoke with Chief Peter Newsham minutes before the conference began,” Sandra “S.S.” Seegars, a former advisory neighborhood commissioner, wrote in a June 8 Facebook post. “I also spoke with Commander Regis Bryant. Bryant said he accepts the proposition offered to him by Newsham.”
Seegars wrote that Bryant will stay at the Information Technology Bureau as an inspector for now because of a family member’s health issues. She, along with other leaders at the news conference, expressed support for Bryant to stay at 7D.
Seegars also wrote there were concerns about the new commander, Andre L. Wright, after it was revealed that there was a settlement between a female officer and him resulting in her being moved to another location.
There was widespread talk in the ward when word got out on June 1 that Bryant, a 26-year veteran of the department, had been demoted. Newsham, in a statement, said a personnel change was in the works at 7D and Wright was the new commander.
Bryant was appointed to 7D in December 2016 and has received awards for his performance and praise for his openness to officers and to the community.
The Bryant controversy is noteworthy because removing a commander seems to be standard operating procedure for the police department leadership when there is a spike in crime. Many community leaders in Black neighborhoods have long complained that knee-jerk commander removal isn’t an effective tool for fighting crime and often residents aren’t consulted about the change.
“We are very concerned that the police chief didn’t talk to our council member when Bryant was moved,” Seegars told the AFRO. “Council member [Trayon] White should have been informed.”
The AFRO briefly spoke with Newsham, who responded to a question about Bryant by saying “the new commander is Andre Wright.” Wright, who was next to Newsham, told the AFRO, “I am ready to serve the community.”
Seegars said Bryant’s demotion to inspector will not reduce his salary. She said the family health concern was extremely important and 7D needs a commander on the ground during the summer months, when crime tends to spike.
Mary Cuthbert, a longtime advisory commissioner in Ward 8 and chair of the 7D citizens’ advisory committee, when asked about the controversy, shrugged her shoulders. “I wanted to attend the press conference put on by Sandra but I had an appointment to go to,” she said. “I am glad that the chief and the commander came to an agreement. I respect the decision made by the commander.”
Cuthbert said she is familiar with Wright and is looking forward to working with him.