Overhaul Set for District Police

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty last month, has cut the number of assistant chiefs from eight to six. Four are new appointees.
Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty last month, has cut the number of assistant chiefs from eight to six. Four are new appointees. (By Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post)

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By Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 24, 2007

D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier is set to announce a wholesale reorganization of the department today, abandoning the structure established by her predecessor and mentor and reducing the number of African Americans in the agency's top brass.

To make the 3,900-member force more agile and increase police presence, Lanier is shrinking her senior staff, beefing up technology and putting patrol officers under one citywide command. It is the first major departmental overhaul in almost 10 years.

"I'm trying to improve efficiency and communications so we can do things faster and better," said Lanier, 40, who took over the department in January from Charles H. Ramsey.

The racial shift in some respects mirrors staff changes that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) made when he replaced African Americans in several key Cabinet positions. The appointments angered some residents, who complained that Fenty's choices created a Cabinet that does not reflect the majority-black city it governs.

Four of eight assistant police chiefs were African American under Ramsey; two of six assistant chiefs will be black under Lanier, who is white.

"I didn't sit down and go, 'Who can I promote with what race and gender?' " Lanier said. "I looked at who has been working at the highest level and put them in key positions. Then I looked to see if everything is balanced, and I think it is."

The announcement of the changes, scheduled to take effect Sunday, comes a week after an off-duty officer fatally shot a 14-year-old in Southeast Washington, generating community outcry.

Residents across the District regularly complain that they do not see police officers on the streets, and violent crime is on the rise, with homicides up about 10 percent from this time last year.

City Administrator Dan Tangherlini said Lanier's goal is to prevent crime by implementing a plan that supports street officers and encourages them to get involved in communities.

"It's consistent with the administration overall, where we want a stronger relationship between leadership and the ground troops," Tangherlini said.

Fenty said that he signed off on the reorganization but that "the architecture belongs to the chief. . . . We encouraged the chief to set her own course."

Lanier is dismantling the structure Ramsey created in 1998, which carved the city into three regional operations command centers, or ROCS, each headed by an assistant chief.

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