News & Politics

DC Police Union Chair Steps Down

Kristopher Baumann will leave his post in April after eight years in office.

Saying it was “time for me to step away,” DC Police Union chair Kristopher Baumann made it official this morning that he’s leaving his post after eight years in office. In a “farewell message” to his membership, Baumann tallied his accomplishments and said his successors are in place.

Baumann’s departure, which takes place on April 1, will be welcome news for Mayor Vince Gray, City Council chair Phil Mendelson, and Police Chief Cathy Lanier. Even as Baumann announced his departure, he kept up his withering attacks on the city leaders, particularly Lanier, for deadlocked negotiations on the police contract. The cops have not had a new contract since 2007.

“It’s very difficult to justify a 45 percent pay raise [for city officials] when the rank and file has not had a pay raise in six years,” he tells Washingtonian. Mayor Gray renewed Lanier’s contract last year at $253,817 a year. Her initial salary was $175,000 in 2007.

Baumann, an attorney, brought a lawyerly approach to running the police union, which has approximately 3,700 members. He filed numerous lawsuits against the Metropolitan Police Department and mayors Adrian Fenty and Gray. When Chief Lanier boasted that her 2007 All Hands on Deck program of flooding the streets with cops helped to hold down crime, Baumann, calling it a PR stunt, sued the department for overtime.

“We won at every step,” he says.

Under Baumann, the union hired teams of attorneys to sue to city for release of information, and it went after the department for what the union called retaliation against officers.

Neither Lanier’s office nor the MPD responded to requests for comment on Baumann’s imminent departure.

Baumann’s letter to the rank and file described how he had “transformed” a union that had no media presence.

“Now we are the most formidable union in the District,” he wrote. “In the face of two open hostile mayoral administrations and the biggest economic downturns of our lifetimes, we have not only persevered—we have grown stronger.”

But not strong enough to prevail in labor negotiations. Mayor Gray’s spokesmen have blamed Baumann for the stalled talks.

Besides attacking Lanier, Baumann has taken whacks at council chair Phil Mendelson, who chaired the judiciary committee before his election to council chair. Baumann blamed Mendelson for fostering liberal laws that he claimed made the city less safe. Mendelson scoffs at Baumann’s criticism and says he’s stiffened the city’s public-safety laws.

The police union is scheduled to vote for a new chair on January 16. Baumann is promoting Delroy Burton, his deputy and a member of the Fraternal Order of Police executive committee. Burton could face at least two challengers.

Baumann expects to return to patrol in the seventh district, which covers Anacostia and the city’s Southeast neighborhoods. But he will be at the union helm for the next three months during the mayoral campaign, and he intends to use his podium to attack Mayor Gray’s public safety record.

“The Mayor and the department have failed to recognize we have a significant public safety problem in our city,” he says. Baumann says homicides, sexual assaults, and assaults with guns are up in DC, while those numbers are dropping in other cities. “If we’re not honest with the public about the level of crime, we will lose trust,” he says.

His recommendation: “More police. Tougher laws.”

No surprise there.