Just Asking: D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier


D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
Joe Heim
Writer and editor April 3

Cathy Lanier, 46, has been Washington’s police chief since 2007. She grew up in Tuxedo, Md., and joined the police
force in 1990 as a cop walking the beat.

When you’re driving your personal car on a highway and you see a police car, do you immediately check to see how fast you’re going?

Joe Heim is an editor and writer for The Washington Post magazine. He has recently written about the role of presidents as consolers-in-chief and about Washingtonians personal experiences with gun violence. View Archive

Of course. You don’t even think about it. That’s like subconscious activity.

Have you ever gotten a ticket?

When I was 18, 19, of course. And I have to say that Montgomery County police were always very diligent about radar on my old route when I worked in Bethesda.


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Police officers have a reputation as being really tough. Is there anything that scares you?

Yeah, but I would never tell anyone what that is.

Oh, come on, tell us.

[Laughs] Spiders. Terrified of spiders. I think it’s a lifelong fear.

So if you see one, you have to call in one of your deputies to handle it?

Yeah, we have to hope there’s no shots fired, right?

When do you think you’ll leave the force and run for office in D.C.?

See, that is a trick question. I am in this job until they ask me to go.

So you’ve never thought about running for office in D.C.?

[Laughs] I’m not commenting on running for office in D.C.

Okay, we’ll move on. What’s the most annoying thing that cops hear on a regular basis?

“I only had two beers.” For some reason, it’s always two drinks for everybody. No one ever says
“one” or “three” or “four.” [Laughs] You’ve used that one, haven’t you?

No, no, never. I’m a strict by-the-law guy. Finally, is there a great cop joke that we can tell in the paper?

I’ll e-mail one to you.

The following day Chief Lanier
e-mailed me this joke:

A blond woman was speeding down the road in her little red sports car and was pulled over by a woman police officer who was also a blonde.

The blond cop asked to see the blond driver’s license. She dug through her purse and was getting progressively more agitated.

“What does it look like?” she finally asked. The policewoman replied, “It’s square, and it has your picture on it.”

The driver finally found a square mirror in her purse, looked at it and handed it to the policewoman. “Here it is,” she said.

The blond officer looked at the mirror, then handed it back saying, “Okay, you can go. I didn’t realize you were a cop.”

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