National Press Club

Chief Lanier describes policing strategies for changing D.C. areas at Press Club Newsmaker

April 11, 2013 | By Lorna Aldrich |

Cathy Lanier, Washington, D.C., chief of police, answers a question from Tejinder Singh of the National Press Club Newsmakers Committee at an event on April 10, 2013.

Cathy Lanier, Washington, D.C., chief of police, answers a question from Tejinder Singh of the National Press Club Newsmakers Committee at an event on April 10, 2013.

Photo/Image: Marshall H. Cohen

Cathy Lanier, police chief for Washington, D.C., described the development of policing strategies for 14 changing areas of the city at an April 10 National Press Club Newsmaker.

The analysis process weighs such factors as rents and homeownerhsip, the number of households, demographic data, income, business licenses, traffic counts, business openings, and restaurants and bars, Lanier said. The goal is to deploy police ahead of time, she added

She described four stages of development ranging from a catalyst, the Verizon Center in Chinatown, for example, to an end-stage of restaurants, retail, entertainment venues, bars and dense residential development rather than single family homes.

An additional nine areas are in line for scrutiny, she said, because "New nightlife areas are popping up all over the city."

Some of the areas are mixed use and some are clearly entertainment districts, such as H St., N.E., she said.

In some areas, the police department is playing "catchup" after change has reached the final stage, Lanier said, mentioning Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle.

Lanier cited the effect of establishments selling on-premise alcoholic beverages on police workloads. Up to 10 in a block, there is no increase in workload, she said. Above that the workload can increase fourfold, she continued. In the Adams Morgan area there are 38 such establishments in one block, she said.

The density creates challenges at the peak hours of 1 a.m. to 3 a.m., when police are drawn to problems in the center, leading to crimes on the periphery as people seek their transportation home, Lanier said.

The department has prepared a 40-page guide, two years in the making, of best practices for businesses in the areas, Lanier said. In addition, police are being trained specifically for those areas, where patrols by foot, Segway and bicycle are more useful than cars, she noted.

She emphasized the importance of community policy, even though, "It is sometimes hard to prove what you prevent."

She explained that police strategy changes as departments take lessons from incidents "around the world." After the Mumbai shooting incident, police departments changed the advice on reacting to active shooters toward intervening by those who feel able and willing to do so, she said.

The department reaches communities within the city using the preferred channels for each, Lanier said, citing texting for youth, programs in schools, a list serve for 19,000 subscribers and radio for the Latino community.

She noted reduced gang activity in recent years and the limited incursion of methaphetamines in the city as encouraging developments.

When asked where she stands on the gun-control debate, Lanier retorted, "As far away as possible," then added that she stands behind D.C.'s gun controls.

The federal sequesters will affect federal law enforcement agencies that operate in D.C. and Lanier said the D.C. police will help their federal partners when they need it as they have helped D.C. police in the past.

Finally, Lanier said "I am not interested in running for mayor," and, in response to a follow-up, "I am not interested in a political office."