D.C. Police Chief Lanier on Inauguration Security

Cathy Lanier
Chief of Police, District of Columbia
Friday, January 16, 2009 11:00 AM

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier was online Friday, Jan. 16 at 11 a.m. ET to take your questions about the security risks presented by the inauguration, how the city is preparing for the influx of visitors and what you need to know for a safe and hassle-free inauguration experience.

The transcript follows.


Midtown, DC: Chief Lanier,

PLEASE clear up the confusion for everyone with actual tickets to see the parade. If I have tickets to the parade, do I have to get there as early as everyone who lines the parade route? Here's what a Post article on 1/13 said:

"But according to a security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to comment, capacity is expected to be between 280,000 and 300,000. That number will include only those people standing on the sidewalks; it does not include the 5,000 people who have tickets to sit on bleachers along the parade route."

And here's what you are attributed as saying in the Post yesterday:

"And she had this warning for people who think that, because they have a ticket to the parade, they can show up later than anyone else. Once authorities determine that the crowd has reached capacity along the Pennsylvania Avenue route, no one will be admitted, regardless of whether they have a ticket. She gave no prediction for when that might happen but urged people to keep checking the Web sites."

Which is it???

Cathy Lanier: I cannot speak for the US Park Police, who is the lead agency for the parade route area, but I will say that based on our discussions with all of the agencies involved, we fully expect the parade route area to be filled by 10:00 or 11:00 AM. The US PP has said that once the parade route is full the check points will close and no one else will be permitted. This is the same for the Swearing in Ceremony at the Capitol. This is important so ticket holders do not come late thinking that they will be able to get in at any time.


Ft. Lauderdale: I have heard that nobody will be able to leave the parade zone between 2 and 6 p.m. Is this true?

Cathy Lanier: You can leave the parade route anytime you wish. But re-entering the restricted area is another issue. Realize if you leave you may not get back in.


Washington, D.C.: Chief Lanier: I want to watch the swearing-in from one of the Jumbotrons on the mall. Do I have to go through the parade-watching entry points, even if I am not watching the parade? I plan to be walking, approaching from the north and will have to cross Penn. Ave. That's why I am concerned about getting caught in the parade security and count. Thank you.

Cathy Lanier: You can access the mall from the north WITHOUT passing through the parade route check points on the east via the Third Street Tunnel or on the west from 18th Street - 23rd Street and then go south.


Falls Church, VA: Will the number of people be limited to the swearing-in ceremony, like they are limiting parade attendees to 300,000?

Cathy Lanier: The swearing in ceremony is open to ticket holders only. And yes, the number is limited to 240,000.


Blacksburg, Va.: Once we enter the VIP area for the inaugural ceremony, if we don't feel well from the cold, can we leave before the whole thing is over?

Cathy Lanier: You can leave any area at any time. The only restrictions are on entering secure areas


California: Chief Lanier,

First, I think it's great that you're being open and spending time online with us today. I think it's a great forum for you to get the word out and reassure folks. Thank you.

Like many Obama supporters, I have at times feared greatly for Barack's safety. Somewhat to my surprise, it feels like the level of threats has actually diminished since November.

Is there any evidence of that?

I've heard rumors that the Secret Service is especially worried about Obama's safety during the inauguration. Any truth to that?

And somewhat separately...

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being calm and 10 being gravely worried and tense -- what's your level of comfort as you look out over the next 5 days or so in Washington, D.C.?

Again, thank you.

Cathy Lanier: There are no specific threats to the Inaug. events. I, along with all of the other law enforcement officials are briefed daily. I think you should feel comfortable that the US Secret Service has done a great job to ensure that the President Elect is safe. The size and scoope of the security plan for these event is extremely comprehensive so I think we are going to have a safe and exciting day on January 20th


Washington, D.C.: We live in SW and will walk to the parade area. We have bleacher seats: (1) how early should we be there, (2) can we bring a blanket?

Cathy Lanier: The Parade Route will open at 7AM and we fully expect it to fill to capacity by 10 or 11. Please come early and be prepared to spend some time to get through the check points. Yes, you can have blankets. Enjoy the Parade


Penn Quarter, Washington, DC: What can we bring past security to the Sunday Welcome Concert for Obama on the Mall?

Cathy Lanier: You can get answers to most all of your questions about the permissible items at any event at www.pic2009.org


Toronto, Canada: I am travelling back to Toronto Canada on the evening of January 20. Will I be allowed to carry a backpack full of clothes on the Metro with me from the Canadian Embassy on Pennsylvana Ave to Dulles Airport?

Cathy Lanier: Yes.


Fairfax, Va.: It hasn't yet been made clear whether you may bring fold-up chairs to the Lincoln Memorial concert on Sunday afternoon. Will those be allowed past the security checkpoints? Thanks.

Cathy Lanier: The US Park Police said yesterday that you can bring folding chairs for the event on Sunday. Please continue to check the websites posted


Arlington, VA: Will there be security to go through at the concert on Sunday? If so, what time do you advise arriving?


Cathy Lanier: Yes there will be security and the check points open at 8 AM for non-ticket holders and 9 AM for ticket holders


Arlington, VA: Hello, thanks for taking our questions. I ave two questions- first, will blankets be allowed on the mall for Sunday's pre-inauguration concert? Second, will the Lincoln Memorial be open on Tuesday? That's such a nice vantage point to see the entire Mall, if only for a photo-op!

Cathy Lanier: Yes blankets and folding chairs allowed and yes it will be open on Tuesday


JennX: This is absurd. If I have a ticket to a seated area for the parade (I do) and arrive after the swearing-in-- say 12:30-- even if the standing areas along the parade route are deemed to be "at capacity," the ticketed areas clearly are NOT since the person who holds a ticket to sit there-- ME-- isn't there yet. So why can't I watch the swearing in, revel in the atmosphere on the Mall, and then dart over to my assigned, ticketed, PAID FOR seating area?

Cathy Lanier: I will have to direct you to the US Park Police or the PIC since that is outside of my area of authority. you could begin with the www.pic2009.org site


Food and Med worries: I have diabetes. Will I be able to bring my syringe delivered insulin and snacks into the ticketed area?

Cathy Lanier: Yes. Please bundle up and stay safe. There will be medical tents along the mall throughout all of the events. Don't hesitate to use them if you need assistance.


Washington, DC: I live 2 blocks off of U Street in the Dupont/Adams Morgan area. I am really concerned about the security in the area, with the bars open all night and millions of people in town. There are regularly violent incidents on normal nights without these factors. What is the MPD doing to protect people in the neighborhoods during this event, especially at night?

Cathy Lanier: We will have extra police officers deployed throughout the city in all of the areas NOT associated with the Inaug. Events. We actually began our extended shifts today to add officers to those areas in advance. You should see plenty of police


Washington, DC: I have tickets to the parade bleacher seats and was planning on watching the ceremony itself on a Jumbotron on the mall before heading over to the bleachers. Are you saying that I won't be able to access the bleachers once the standing areas for the parade are full? What if I walk around the parade route and enter from the north?

Cathy Lanier: That is possible. I would direct you to the US Park Police or the PIC for resolution since it is outside of my authority


Cathy Lanier: Thank you very much for the opportunity to answer your questions today. I look forward to numerous outstanding events over the next several days.



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