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DC Police Chief Wasn’t So Popular Within Her Own Department

REUTERS/Larry Downing

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Outgoing Washington, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier lacked support within her own ranks, despite being a popular figurehead of District leadership.

The leader of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) announced Tuesday she will retire September 17 after a decade in the post, taking city residents and the mayor by surprise. District officials praised Lanier for her record on crime, with Mayor Muriel Bowser lauding the fact that violent crime dropped 23 percent after Lanier became police chief in 2007. Despite the glowing praise, representatives of the D.C. Police Union were jubilant at Lanier’s departure, reports WAMU.

The union held a vote of no confidence in Lanier last summer that found 97.5 percent of officers had little faith in her leadership. Roughly 1,150 of the 3,600 officers on the force at the time participated in the vote.

“Today is the greatest day in my career and so many other of the 3,500 cops in this city,” Gregg Pemberton, treasurer of the D.C. Police Union, said on Twitter. “My phone is blowing up with members fanatically excited!! People are thrilled that this nightmare is over.”

Pemberton said Lanier should be “ashamed” and that she is leaving the department in “disarray.” Lanier gained popularity and recognition in local neighborhoods for reaching out and engaging with communities plagued by violence. Lanier alienated many officers with her policies, Pemberton said, according to FOX5.

“994 officers have fled in just two and a half years, and morale has never been worse,” Pemberton told FOX5. “Hopefully the mayor will use this opportunity to conduct a nationwide search with all stakeholders, including the union, involved in the selection process. This way we can move forward in the hopes we can rebuild the MPD.”

Lanier alienated many officers when she eliminated drug squads at the MPD, which critics argue are crucial to solving violent crimes. Some have gone as far to say this policy contributed to the rise in homicides in 2015. A significant amount of retirements in the last few years have shrunk the police force, with many blaming the early departures on Lanier’s leadership style.

In spite of the criticism, the annual homicide count for the District dropped significantly for most of Lanier’s tenure, falling from a high of 186 in 2008 to a low of 88 in 2012. The homicide rate spiked 54 percent in 2015 and is only 10 percent lower so far this year. Homicides have tripled this year in Ward 3. (RELATED: DC Police Chief’s Retirement Presents Challenge For Bowser Amid City Violence)

Bowser wants to pick someone from within the MPD to replace Lanier instead of embarking on a national search, as some union officials have suggested. The mayor praised Lanier for her service and 26 years of dedication to the MPD. Lanier is leaving for a top security position with the National Football League.

“She believes in the power of building relationships with communities as the best way to deter and solve crime,” Bowser said in a statement Tuesday. “Cathy Lanier has made the District of Columbia a safer and stronger place to live, work, and play.”

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