D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier gets new 5-year contract

May 9, 2012

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray will retain Cathy L. Lanier as police chief under a new five-year contract, citing “a growing sense among District residents” that the nation’s capital has become a safer city since Lanier took charge of the 3,800-member force.

Although a veteran police officer, Lanier had no experience heading a major department before Mayor Adrian M. Fenty appointed her chief in 2007. With her frequent appearances at crime scenes and community events, Lanier has since become the public face of the city’s most visible agency, a generally popular figure among D.C. residents if not with the department’s unionized officers.

Lanier made $253,817 in the final year of her recently expired contract. She will not receive a pay increase under the new deal because the D.C. Council passed a bill last year freezing the salary for her job, said Phil Mendelson (D-At Large).

Mendelson, chairman of the council’s public safety and judiciary committee, said the legislation banned any performance bonuses or annual cost-of-living raises for the District’s police chief. Because of such income enhancers, Lanier’s initial annual pay of $175,000 climbed to $253,817 during the five years of her previous contract.

“Chief Lanier is very popular,” Mendelson said, adding that he does not object to any of the terms of her new contract. The deal was first reported Wednesday by WTOP (103.5 FM) and later made public by the mayor’s office. Lanier “is responsible for reducing crime in the city, and crime has been reduced,” Mendelson said.

The labor union representing D.C. police officers took a different view.

“It is a grim day for police officers and residents,” Kristopher Baumann, chairman of the city’s Fraternal Order of Police, said in a notice to the union’s 3,500 members. The union represents officers below the rank of lieutenant.

Noting that the FOP has been without a contract since 2007 and that officers and sergeants have not received a raise since then, Baumann said, “We are reminded once again that this is an administration without honor, and the leaders are out to enrich themselves at the expense of the public and workers that serve the public.”

Lanier, 44, who joined the D.C. force as a patrol officer in 1990, did not issue a statement about the contract or respond to an e-mail query.

In a statement, Gray (D) credited Lanier for “a substantial increase in public confidence in the Metropolitan Police Department. . . . These are perceptions that help shape reality, because when people trust the police, the police are better able to do their jobs.”

The District’s yearly homicide toll and some other major crimes have decreased during Lanier’s tenure, according to statistics compiled by her department. Performance bonuses tied to those numbers were part of the reason for her substantial pay increases.

Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesman for Gray, said that under D.C. law, members of the police force generally receive a 15 percent longevity bonus after 25 years on the job. But Ribeiro said that Lanier’s new contract calls for only a 5 percent bonus upon her 25th anniversary on the force, in September 2015.

Also, under the new deal, if the mayor fires Lanier, she will receive four months of pay after being notified of the termination, Mendelson said. Her previous contract provided for six months of pay. “Essentially, this contract continues the status quo with some terms that are slightly more favorable to the District,” Mendelson said.

The contract does not require ratification by the council. But the reduction in the longevity bonus for the chief will require council members’ approval of an amendment to D.C. law, Mendelson said. He said his committee will hold a hearing on the issue.

“In that context, people and the union and others will be able to come and speak and offer their opinions” of the contract, he said.

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