DC Police Chief Doesn’t Have An Answer To Recent Murder Spike

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After violence has skyrocketed in the city over the past few months, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier isn’t sure what is causing the spike, but said it’s definitely not the “Ferguson Effect.”

“All the data we have suggests exactly the opposite of the national rumor narrative [of] the ‘Ferguson effect’ and police aren’t working,” Lanier told WTOP News. “Police are recovering more illegal firearms. Police are working very, very hard.”

The “Ferguson Effect” Lanier is referring to is the idea that police are taking a more hands-off approach to dealing with criminals after the riots that occurred in Missouri and Baltimore.

Lanier and Mayor Muriel Bowser have repeatedly blamed the spike in homicides and violent crimes on an increase in the use of synthetic drug use in the city.

Police blamed a brutal Independence Day stabbing on synthetic drugs after an 18-year-old man, believed to be high on the drugs, stabbed another man to death on a crowded train heading downtown. The horrific event spurred city leaders to take action.

Bowser introduced emergency legislation that forbids businesses from selling the synthetic drugs, often labeled as incense, and gives the police authority to shut down businesses violating the new law.

“The entire community has been impacted by the increase in availability of these drugs. Our message today is clear: If you are selling synthetic drugs in this city, we are going to shut you down,” Lanier said when the law was passed.

Since the beginning of the year, 87 people have been murdered in the city, a 26 percent increase over the same time last year. WJLA reports that most of those murders are still unsolved.

Now an official with the D.C. Police Union is calling out the mayor and the police chief, saying the two are just using synthetic marijuana as a “red herring” for what’s really causing crime in the city.

Gregg Pemberton, treasurer of the D.C. Police Union and an active detective in the Metropolitan Police Department, said there isn’t any data to back up claims that synthetic drugs are to blame for the city’s rising crime rate.

“No arrest stats, no seizures of the nefarious product, no statistics showing how the rise in use correlates to the violence, or even that there’s any rise in use in the first place,” Pemberton said in a statement. “[Bowser and Lanier will] just give you some anecdotal evidence of a handful of overdoses, an increase in ambulance trips to the ER, and some stories of bizarre behavior exhibited by users.”

Pemberton instead claims Lanier’s decision to eliminate all vice units in the city and return the 125 officers that staffed them to patrol units is to blame for the rise in violence.

Lanier broke up the vice units in May, which were tasked with investigating narcotics and gun crimes, in what Pemberton called a hasty and short-sighted reaction to political pressure.

All seven police districts in the city had a vice unit consisting of 15-20 officers, sergeants and a lieutenant, though those are now gone. (RELATED: DC Cops To Stop Targeting Low-Level Drug Dealers)

Pemberton also said the MPD is “hemorrhaging personnel at an alarming rate,” which is contributing to the rising violent crime numbers.

Over the past 19 months, 550 officers have left the agency, which is roughly 15 percent of all the city’s police officers. Only about half that number is due to retirements, according to Pemberton, the rest are leaving for police departments with less “toxic management.”

This attrition rate leaves the remaining officers more overworked, understaffed and less likely to be able to respond quickly to crime.

“What’s a more likely scenario? That MPD is understaffed and has been abruptly stripped of 125 officers who took a proactive, tactical and learned approach to making thousands of arrests per year, and now crime and violence is filling this new void?” Pemberton asked in the statement. “Or is it that some chemical sold in shady corner stores has turned the entire city into homicidal maniacs?”

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