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Police Chief Cathy Lanier's Future as Top Cop, Uncertain

James Wright | 10/20/2010, 11:57 a.m.
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier has received high marks from community leaders for her outreach to various neighborhoods in the city. However, with the departures of D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee Chief Lanier's tenure is up for speculation.Courtesy Photo

The departure of the controversial D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has the political community in Washington abuzz about the future of the D.C. police chief under the new mayoral administration which will take control in January.

Politicians and community observers in the District wonder whether Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier will be around for a likely Mayor Vincent Gray administration.

Lanier, 43, has received praise for her outreach to community leaders.

"I think that Gray should keep her," Jacques Patterson, the president of the Ward 8 Democratic Committee, said. "She has been very good for the community. I like her strategy for deploying a lot of officers in our area."

Patterson, 45, said that Ward 8, located in Southeast, is safer because of her. Lanier was appointed the chief of police by D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty in 2007. She is the first female to hold that position.

During her tenure, the department instituted an "All Hands on Deck" weekend patrol, where police personnel, regardless of rank, take to the streets to fight crime. The measure has been credited with the overall reduction in criminal activity by some law enforcement experts.

Lanier has also been credited for her sympathetic approach towards victims of crime. She has attended the funerals of slain crime victims and has reached out to families during their time of need.

However, critics say that her leadership can be high-handed. She has dismissed popular police commanders with no input from the community. Her check points in the troubled Trinidad community in Ward 5 in Northeast, two years ago drew criticism from civil liberties activists, community leaders and residents.

She's also had a rocky relationship with the Fraternal Order of Police, which supported Gray for mayor in the Sept. 14 Democratic Party primary.
D.C. Council member Kwame Brown (D-At-Large), the presumptive chairman of the D.C. Council, likes a lot of what Lanier has done.

"Cathy Lanier has done a great job with the community," Brown, 39, said. "The Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners like her and the civic associations like her, too. She has done a lot to bring down the murder rate."

Brown said that Lanier still has work to do in bringing down the robberies and sexual assaults, "but she is on the right track."

Darryl Singletary, a former resident of the District who lives in Hyattsville, Md., said that despite Lanier's work, the city is still not safe.

"D.C. is not safe, especially for young Black men," Singletary, 25, said. "Young kids get in trouble because they have nothing to do. The truth is that violence can happen anywhere, any place."

Singletary said that D.C. police still racially profile Black males for crimes. He's experienced it first-hand, he said.

"There seems to be a mentality among the D.C. police that young Black men are up to no good and I don't see how Chief Lanier has changed that."

Singletary would not comment on whether Lanier should keep her job. Brown said the decision on Lanier's future depends on Gray. When asked, Gray said that he would look at that position down the road.

"No decision has been made on that," Gray, 67, said. "We will look at that position, like all others, after the general election."