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5 Reasons DC Cops Are Unhappy With Chief Lanier

Photograph by Flickr user Tommy Wells.

Violent crime, shootings and homicides are up across the District. Why the spike? Theories abound: from poverty and hopelessness to drugs and gangs. The police union, which represents 3,600 sworn officers, issued a report Monday that a third of its members have “no confidence” in Chief Cathy Lanier’s management, which it calls “feckless.” Mayor Muriel Bowser shot back a statement supporting the chief; Bowser’s chief of staff, John Falcicchio, called the poll “as believable as a Castro election.”

Beneath the heated rhetoric, here are five reasons street cops have a beef with the chief:

1. Tradition: Street cops love to gripe about their chief. It’s a tradition from New York to Los Angeles. In DC the police union went crosswise with Lanier’s predecessor, Charles Ramsey. He mentored her, she continued his management style, and the animus transferred.

2. Money: Lanier received a series of raises and bonuses that brought her compensation to $230,000 a year in 2011. Not bad for a paycheck that was $175,000 a year when she started in 2007. Meanwhile, her troops were deadlocked over contract talks and didn’t receive a raise for six years, until they got a 3 percent raise in 2014.

3. Discipline: Many line officers in the District believe the department’s discipline policies are harsh, favor the bad guys, and hamper their ability to do their jobs. Under Ramsey, the MPD instituted reviews of every use of force and penalties for minor infractions. Some cops say Lanier doubled down and meted out discipline indiscriminately. Message to street cops: the chief doesn’t have your back.

4. Public Relations: A lot of cops believe Lanier directs her best management practices to public relations. They think her All Hands on Deck deployments are a waste of time and resources. Stationing cops on restricted foot patrols around Metro stops where crime is up might look good, but these cops say it actually hampers an officer’s ability to respond to crime, even a block away.

5. Gang Units: Veteran officers are mystified that Lanier has disbanded specialized gang units at the same time she says gangs are responsible for the rise in shootings. And by centralizing vice squads, they think she’s robbed the cops of valuable sources that plainclothes cops in each district can cultivate over time — which can help prevent crime rather than react to it after bodies fall.

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