WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — Mayor Muriel Bowser on Friday named outgoing Police Chief Robert Contee’s right-hand man to lead the department on an interim basis as it battles spikes in homicides and violent crime.
Ashan Benedict, who has served as the executive assistant chief since he was appointed by Contee in April of 2021, already manages day-to-day operations for the Metropolitan Police Department.
The new interim chief takes over next Wednesday when Contee, who officially retires early next month, wraps up his tenure before departing for a post at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. And it’s a job that has its challenges.
“My focus is on the city and quelling the violence in the city,” Benedict said.
But the interim chief said he is not pursuing the top cop job, though. “I think it’s important to bring some stability and consistency to department operations and not have that distraction at all,” Benedict added.
Benedict is usually seen with Contee at each and every crime scene in the city and takes on the job with homicides up 10 percent and overall violent crime at 14 percent.
“I know that he’s going to do a fine job in making sure that we’re deploying our men and women, keeping the district safe while the interim search is ongoing,” Bowser said.
Contee said that Benedict will help get guns off the streets in a seamless transition given his previous experiences in law enforcement.
“He comes from a background on focusing on guns from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms,” Contee said. “And if you look…over 80% of the homicides in the District of Columbia are gun-related, illegal firearm related.”
The mayor said Benedict is the right person to lead the police force that is also dealing with a rise in juvenile violence.
There have been seven homicides so are this year involving young people, according to police statistics, including two deaths this week a 10-year-old girl shot on Mother’s Day and a 17-year-old high school student killed on school grounds.
Contee said that Benedict also helped lead efforts that pushed crime down last year after similar spikes going into the summer months.
“I’m very confident in his ability to be able to lead this department forward as the mayor continues to consider who will be the next chief of police,” he said.
Bowser wouldn’t say what her timetable is for choosing a new leader.
“As soon as I find the right person and we’re not going to rush that decision,” she said. “But at the same time, I would like to have a permanent chief as soon as possible.”