Earlier versions of this article misspelled the first name of the president of the Ward 8 Democrats, Jacque Patterson. It has been corrected.
Gray likely to keep Lanier as chief
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty shocked the city before he even took office when he picked Cathy L. Lanier, a little-known mid-career commander, as the city's first female permanent police chief in 2006.
The mayor and new chief were cut from the same cloth: A tireless work ethic, an obsessive willingness to respond to residents and a tendency to show up at every neighborhood event, meeting and crime scene. But although Fenty withdrew and his popularity plummeted, Lanier has become even more accessible and well liked. Crime is dropping, and it seems that half the city has her cellphone number.
Now, sources close to Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray (D) say that he is likely to keep Lanier as chief. The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Gray had not made an announcement, said that the mayor-elect could still change his mind.
"My reading of the tea leaves is she will stay," said council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), head of the public safety and judiciary committee. "She's a good chief and a good director of an agency of 5,000 people. You want exactly that in the chief of police."
Gray, Lanier and Fenty declined to comment.
It would be an unusual political move if Gray keeps Lanier. New mayors historically bring in their own police chiefs when they take office, even if the chief is popular.
But it was unusual that Fenty picked Lanier in the first place. Just 39 at the time, she was not in the top tier of the department's brass, and she was a white woman in a majority-black city.
She did, however, have management experience, was commander of the homeland security unit and was part of Washington's BlackBerry-obsessed culture, a self-described work addict.
Lanier's approval rating among city residents hovers at 80 percent, and homicides hit a 43-year low last year. She has been smart tactically, responding promptly to the D.C. Council and neighborhood activists. More polarizing Fenty department heads such as former schools chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, who resigned shortly after Gray was elected, had not been as accommodating.
Jacque Patterson, who lives in the Shipley Terrace neighborhood and is president of Ward 8 Democrats, switched his allegiance from Fenty to Gray but has remained steadfast in his support of Lanier.
"Lanier stayed the course, she has been accessible, she's been there," Patterson said. "Anything that's happened, she's responded to. Every citizen needs to feel they can touch the people they elect. It makes them that much more invested in their community. We didn't have that with Fenty."
But Lanier's public safety tenure has not been without controversy. As one of her major crime-fighting initiatives, she established military-style checkpoints in the troubled Trinidad neighborhood, and residents had to show identification to get in. After a strong backlash and several court hearings, the checkpoints were declared illegal.