Meet Pamela Smith, who will be first Black female police chief in DC after 230 years

Abu Mubarik July 20, 2023
Pamela A. Smith takes the oath as the Metropolitan Police Department’s acting chief. (Courtesy DC government)

Pamela Smith has been nominated as the next police chief of Washington, D.C. The nomination of Smith was made known by Mayor Muriel Bowser and it comes amidst rising crime concerns in the District this summer. Smith joined the D.C. Department over a year ago and has discharged her role dutifully.

At a press conference, Smith outlined her vision for the D.C. Police as its new leader. According to her, she intends to lead from the front and with “boots on the ground”. “Make no mistake about it: On this day, I am proud, I am humbled and I am excited to work alongside this team,” Smith said, according to WUSA9.

The elevation of Smith, if confirmed by the DC Council, will make her the first Black woman to hold this position in the agency’s 230-year history. “This historic moment is not lost on me. I join a legacy of strong African-American women who lead public safety in the District of Columbia,” she said.

Until her nomination, Smith served as Assistant Chief of the Homeland Security Bureau (HSB), which includes the Special Operations Division and the Joint Strategic & Tactical Analysis Command Center. After joining the Metropolitan Police Department in May 2022, she played a leading role in the department’s efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) as the Chief Equity Officer (CEO).

Smith started her career in law enforcement in May 1998, serving in various capacities. She has served in New York, San Francisco, Georgia, and Washington, D.C. In 2009, she got promoted to the rank of sergeant and has gone through several ranks, and in 2021, was promoted to the position of Chief of Police, U.S. Park Police.

Smith said her key goal is to drive down crime, adding that she will use an “all government approach” to address youth crime. Violent crime in the District has gone up 36% from this time last year, data cited by WUSA9 said. The 55-year-old will replace Robert Contee III as the head of the Metropolitan Police Department who retired to work with the FBI last month.

According to the Washington Post, Smith had a difficult upbringing in Pine Bluff, Ark. but did not allow it to push her into “what society had already depicted me to be.”

Her mother married when she was 16 and had three children by 21. Her dad was a drug addict and her mother an alcoholic. When her parents divorced, she was very young so she spent some time in foster care.

To get out of crime, she focused on extracurricular activities in high school, becoming a three-time all-American in track. She went to college and later moved to New York to work as a seasonal park ranger. While on duty, she met a Park Police officer in the horse-mounted unit, which later inspired her to join the Metropolitan Police Department, according to the Post.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: July 20, 2023

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