First Woman Approved As D.C. Chief of Police

By Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Cathy L. Lanier's nomination as police chief was unanimously approved by the D.C. Council yesterday, clearing the way for her to make sweeping changes in the way the department attacks crime.

"I'm trying to change the whole mentality and mood of the agency. We are going to go from reactive to proactive," Lanier said yesterday, watching television in her office as the council members voted on her appointment. "You'll see huge changes."

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) selected Lanier for the position soon after he was elected in November. The council also approved two of Fenty's other nominations yesterday: Linda Singer as attorney general and Janice Quintana as director of the city's unified communications office.

Lanier, a 16-year veteran of the force, will be the District's first permanent female police chief. She has been acting chief since December, when she took over for former chief Charles H. Ramsey. She will have a five-year contract that pays $175,000 annually, matching Ramsey's salary.

Between meetings yesterday, Lanier's staff threw a small celebration in her office, with a marble sheet cake, cut fruit and colorful helium balloons. The party was brief because her schedule is unyielding, she said, as she attempts to shift the focus of the department.

Lanier has come up with a wide-reaching plan that gives her seven district commanders the task of studying long- and short-term crime trends, economic data and population shifts to cut crime in their districts.

The strategies would differ by neighborhood. Their effectiveness would be tested two mornings a week at crime briefings: Large maps of the city would be projected on the wall with icons depicting the crimes that had occurred.

"If their strategy is not working, they will have to tell me why," Lanier said. "It will require anyone who is in a command position to do some thinking and problem-solving."

Ramsey had daily crime briefings, but Lanier said hers will have a different focus: aiming to get ahead of crime rather than responding to where it is happening.

If the city expects several new condominium buildings and night clubs in a certain area, she said, officer deployment should reflect that change.

She also gave the example of the crime emergency that the city faced last summer and at other times in recent years. Historically, crime has risen each summer in the District and across the country.

"If we know it's coming, what are we going to do to stop it before it happens?" she said.

When crime spiked last summer, officers were forced to work hundreds of hours of overtime. Most had to suspend summer vacation plans with their families.

Instead of waiting for that to happen, Lanier said she hopes to anticipate where and when crime will erupt, even down to the block, and to place officers in crime-prone areas. For example, when warm weather attracts tourists to the Mall, the increase in cars in the area inevitably means more car break-ins. In areas where residents are vulnerable walking home from the Metro, she said, the presence of more officers will deter criminals.

Under the Lanier plan, specific neighborhood-focused strategies would be applied across the city and would be fluid.

"Our information-gathering will be constant," she said.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company