Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray apologizes for misconduct by supporters of his 2010 campaign. In his last week in office, Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell says he’s sorry for a gifts scandal that disrupted his administration. Meanwhile, Maryland’s lawmakers report back for duty in Annapolis. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
- Cathy Lanier Chief, Metropolitan Police Department (Washington, D.C.)
Metropolitan Police Department officers have not seen a pay raise or union contract since Cathy Lanier took over as police chief seven years ago. Lanier said all police compensation is negotiate salary hikes. She noted that under her authority, officers have continued to receive step increases, 5 percent longevity raises every five years and base retention payments. “There is not a police chief in this country that doesn’t want their cops to get a pay raise. I want my cops to get a pay raise just like everybody else,” Lanier said.
Politics Hour Weekly News Quiz
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University, in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
MR. KOJO NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist and the Current Newspapers. I am currently campaigning to get Tom a seat in the owner's box at FedEx Field, because now that the Washington Redskins have a new coach I think if Tom is in the owner's box within one hour of his being there the owner would be more than willing to change the name of the team. Because if he has been harassed by Tom Sherwood the way our local elected and appointed officials do, he will crack in one hour.
MR. TOM SHERWOODWell, you know, I really hope that the Washington football team, as I like to call the Skins, have reset the table. They've done more resetting of tables then the catering company. And now they've done it again. And let's hope that Jay Gruden is going to bring some new discipline to the team. And maybe the discipline goes to the owner, Dan Snyder, too. This is, what, the eighth coach in almost 15 years.
NNAMDIIf he looks over his shoulder in that box and sees you nagging him from behind…
SHERWOODI don't know. It's not just an owner. I mean, it's just the whole -- maybe our guest will be able to speak to this. There's an attitude you set at the top and it goes all the way down to the lowest ranking person that you have with you. And the Redskins just don't seem like they've been a team. They seem to be a collection of people.
NNAMDISo you're trying to get our guest, who is a law enforcement official, involved in the controversy over the name of the Washington football team?
SHERWOODYes. I think we should find out if that is something she might speak to.
NNAMDIHappy New Year, Cathy Lanier.
CHIEF CATHY LANIERHappy New Year. Do you like how Tom tries to drag me into the fray every time I come on the show?
SHERWOODI'm sitting two -- not even two feet from her gun. This makes me very nervous.
NNAMDICathy Lanier is the chief of the Metropolitan Police Department in the District of Columbia. Thank you so much for joining us.
LANIERI'm glad to be here.
NNAMDITom and I will discuss a few topics. Feel free to jump in if you feel like jumping in, but don't allow Tom to force you to offer opinions.
LANIEROh, thank you, Kojo. It's nice to know you have my back.
SHERWOODLet's not orchestrate the program. Let's just do it.
LANIERLet's do it.
NNAMDIMayor Gray, he has apologized this week, Tom Sherwood. Well, it was an Interstate 95 apology week this week. We had the governor of New Jersey apologizing, the governor of Virginia apologizing and the mayor of the District of Columbia apologized. What they all shared in common in their apologies is that they all basically said, "I really didn't do anything wrong, but I'm kind of sorry this happened."
SHERWOODWell, we'll see what Governor McDonnell -- and he'll be out of office after tomorrow. We'll see what the prosecution will do in terms of what he in fact did do wrong in terms of accepting gifts. But he did put a terrible smear on his reputation as a pretty good governor. So that's sad. We don't know the whole story about Chris Christie. You know, you do a two-hour news conference in New Jersey saying I didn't know anything, I was misled. And he was disappointed.
SHERWOODThat's good. He just better hope there's not one more email out there somewhere or something that says, well, maybe you did know about it and you forgot. And then he'll just be toast after that.
NNAMDIAll of your colleagues in New Jersey and New York are looking for that email even as we speak. Yes.
SHERWOODYes, they are. And then there's Mayor Gray, who talked with Bruce Johnson on Wednesday and he apologized for his campaign. He's never actually said the word apologize, but he said I can't apologize for what other people did. And I said that's what I think blew a hole in his whole apology. The mayor says, oh, I'm going to apologize for the campaign then I'm going to move on and focus on what my reelection is. He's announcing non-officially. He's doing his campaign kickoff Saturday.
SHERWOODBut when he says I can't apologize for what other people did, what other people are the people in his campaign? Vernon Hawkins, Janie Clark Harris, people who were helping the real campaign ran the shadow campaign. The mayor has not to this moment discussed the flaws in the 201 campaign. He wants us all to look over his past of the last couple years and all the things he's done as mayor, but he doesn't want us to ask questions about what he did in his campaign to be mayor.
SHERWOODAnd it's like a track star on a track, 100-yard meter race or whatever it's called. At the beginning we don't know if the mayor cheated or not. He's running a good race now many people think, but did he cheat at the start line? Well, if you cheat at the start line you're disqualified. And so the mayor can give a general apology all he wants, but he's not going to be relieved of answering questions about what happened in 2010.
NNAMDISo you think that in the thousands of mayoral forums that will occur between now and April Fool's Day that the mayor is likely to be forced to address this issue over and over again?
SHERWOODRight. And his basic answer's going to be, well, the media's hounding me on this. I've said I apologize and I've done a lot of good things. And people want to talk about the future, not the past. Well, if the future's built on a rocky, corrupt foundation, then we need to know that as citizens of the city. And I don't know that the mayor did anything wrong. I don't know that the prosecutor, Ronald Machen, would do anything at all. And maybe he'll just sail to reelection and there won't be any charges against the mayor, there won't be any of that.
SHERWOODBut it's not a subject that's off topic for us when we deal with the mayor at any public event.
NNAMDII need to go back to Virginia for just one second, because after months of weighing the race former Republican national committee chairman Ed Gillespie has decided that he will be challenging Senator Mark Warner. Who is a fairly popular senator in the commonwealth of Virginia, but Ed Gillespie is the kind of name-recognition candidate that the Republican Party probably really wants to run against Mark Warner.
SHERWOODEd Gillespie does not have the foxhole mentality of some of the super conservative Republicans. He's a pleasant person. He's an experienced person on both the national the state level. He's not dropping into the state from New Jersey, although that's where he was born. He was a chairman of the state Republican Party for a brief time back in 2000. He has a good reputation. He has a pretty level head. I think he did a lot of speaking for Romney. So he's a well-respected person with a moderate attitude, which will be good. He's not an avenging-type Republican and so we'll see.
NNAMDIYeah, but he's running against an incumbent.
SHERWOODWell, that's the thing. He's got a very difficult race. Ken Cuccinelli chose not to run Mark Warner. Mark Warner, I think his ratings are in the 60s, which are pretty good for an elected official, particularly the way Congress behaves these days. So the Republicans have a real uphill test. One of the things they're going to depend upon is the fact that Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act is not going to be doing well months from now either.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Our guest is Cathy Lanier, chief of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia. If you have questions or comments for her, call us at 800-433-8850 or send email to email@example.com. You can send us a tweet @kojoshow. And maybe I should have referred to Chief Lanier as, what's up, Slim?
LANIERThat would be fine.
NNAMDIThere's been a significant weight loss here, Tom Sherwood. Have you observed that?
SHERWOODWhat are you saying about her?
LANIERHe was saying that I was chubby before, isn't he?
SHERWOODI know. I think that's, you know, we could turn that -- yeah, that's good.
SHERWOODAnd she stopped smoking. That's a big thing. A lot of people probably didn't know you smoked because you were a secret smoker.
LANIERYeah, Obama and I quit together.
SHERWOODYou've paused smoking. You haven't quit. When did you quit?
LANIERFebruary 14th last year.
NNAMDIAlways remember the exact date.
LANIERSo it'll be a year.
SHERWOODSo once you get -- that's Valentine's Day.
LANIEROf course you know exactly what day it is.
SHERWOODThat's Valentine's Day. So was there something significant there? Was that a pledge?
LANIERI just figured once and for all that's enough.
SHERWOODWell, we have our, you know, the Channel 4 health and fitness expo this weekend, Saturday and Sunday.
LANIERYeah, I think I might have to go by.
SHERWOODYou should come down and proselytized about pausing for this long.
LANIERYou have no confidence in me. I can tell by the way you keep referring to it as a pause. I am done.
SHERWOODIt's a pause until you've stopped smoking for one year it's only a pause.
LANIERI'm just a few weeks away. I'm close.
SHERWOODOkay. Well, I'm going to check back in.
NNAMDIBut can she solve the case of the missing elephant tusks, Tom Sherwood? There were…
LANIERSee, now, I'm under a little stress. I might have to have a cigarette.
NNAMDIJohn A. Wilson Building, there were gifts from the Emperor Haile Selassie back in 1954. In 2007 an Ethiopian businessman lobbied for them to be displayed in a glass case in the council chairman's 5th floor conference room. They have disappeared. Sometime between August 12th and August 27th of last year, after workers were replacing wood paneling and they moved the unlocked case, it's gone. Chief Lanier, what can you tell us about this?
LANIERVery tough crime to solve. There's a window of time that's, you know, that two-week or so period where they were accessible to a variety of different people. We've, you know, collected any evidence that we could, in terms of finger prints and things like that. But they were in a public place for a long time and so it's a tough crime to solve. Hopes are that, you know, somebody will have seen or heard something that's useful to us, but to try and track those down, it's going to be a tough one.
LANIERThere's all kinds of little knick-knack things in little display cases all over the Wilson Building.
LANIERWell, they were moved into an area where they were accessible during some construction and they weren't in a locked case. They've very valuable. Ivory's very, very valuable on the black market.
NNAMDIWell, three members of "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," team will be off to Ethiopia next Wednesday. So if you will authorize us we will continue the investigation there. If we happen to find them we'll bring them back here with us.
NNAMDIBut 20 years ago the District was a place where more 400 homicides could take place in a single year. In 2013 slightly more than 100 homicides took place in the city. Up slightly from 2012, but down considerably from years in the early '90s when that number was regularly four times that much. What do you think accounts for last year's numbers and what concerns you most about the patterns of violence that still exist in the city?
LANIERWell, last year, the Navy Yard incident was huge for us. You know we had 12 lives lost in one single incident. So that's one that I think concerns a lot of major city police chiefs because those mass shootings have happened so much more frequently now than they used to. And that's a reality we all live with every day.
NNAMDIWithout that, we would have been about three over last year, right?
LANIERWe were four over last year. And, you know, when we look at what attributed to those four additional cases, I mean, literally for five straight years we've had significant reductions in homicides. 53 percent reduction in four years. So huge reductions year after year. So we look at all of the cases from this year. You know, we targeted robberies because robberies were becoming a larger motive in homicide cases. And we had a lot of success in driving those down, those robberies. Domestic violence is still persistent. So that's one that we really need to work with our partners in the social service agencies because children under the age of four represent three of our homicides from last year.
SHERWOODWhat do you account -- in urban areas around the country -- maybe not Chicago. It's had a horrific time with crimes. But crime is down in many places in urban areas. There seems to be ways -- the FBI statistics suggest and there's an up tic in murders and robberies and all very violent crimes and then it goes down, but this is pretty consistent around the urban areas of the country.
LANIERYeah, I think we're kind of on -- things do go in cycles. You know you see trends, regardless of what the trends are, you see 10 and 20-year trends. And crime is really no different. But we are starting to see some pretty significant up tics in major cities around the country now. And they're becoming more persistent in violent crime. So everybody's very concerned about that. About three years ago we talked about -- with the major cities -- this gathering storm of what we may see in terms of homicides on the rise again.
LANIERSo it's hard to say. I think the thing that I'm happiest about is we have not seen the gang violence and the retaliatory shootings and large numbers of street shootings where you have multiple teenagers shot and things like that. So we've seen a lot of reduction there, but we still have a lot of work to do. I mean, this is a city that should never again be over 100. And this is a city that should be under 50.
NNAMDIHow about the cross-border crime? Read in the Washington Post that police optimistic that a new system will help to respond to crime clustered around the border with Prince George's County. How is your strategy there going to change?
LANIERWell, we've actually been working very well with Prince George's County. The last three years has been just a daily interaction with Prince George's County. We just this past week made a great case. I watched communications between us and Prince George's four or five times a day. We have patterns across the border every day. And so that relationship has been very, very solid. We share a lot of the same criminals. We see carjacking suspects that'll carjack a car in Prince George's County, come into the District, do some street robberies, back onto the county. So that coordination is so critical that that information moves immediately, as soon as a crime happens here we push it out to the county, likewise to us. And we have to get on it quickly.
SHERWOODCrime in Prince George's County is most serious inside the beltway of Prince George's County.
SHERWOODBut I must say as an aging reporter, I've been to more border press conferences than I can count, where Prince George's and the city have said they're going to work together. What does actually working together mean, other than the notifying if there's been some crime? Do you actually have -- what about crossing the jurisdiction? In hot pursuit you can cross into Prince George's and vice versa; is that correct?
LANIERYes. So, you know, this whole working together thing is…
SHERWOODBut what's the real, yeah, what does that mean? It sounds like a nice thing.
LANIERIt's a very sexy thing to sell, you know, in this line of work. And people want to see that we're working together. So yes, we do a lot of that, you know, announcement sort of thing. And there is a cross-border task force we work with Prince George's County and the FBI. But the reality is we have really close relationships on a personal level and that's the bottom line. You know, Deputy Chief Diane Groomes, with her kind of part over in the county and then our lieutenants and captains and -- so we actually have officers in the 5th District and the 1st District who are communicating throughout their course of their tour of duty with the counterparts who are working the same shifts in Prince George's County.
LANIERSo they're calling each other and passing on tidbits of things that are going on. And that's really where the rubber meets the road. So it's not as big and fancy and sexy as we would like it to be for a press conference, but that's the way it works.
SHERWOODAnd you have police officers who live in Prince George's County.
SHERWOODWho know Prince George's County.
NNAMDIDon your headphones, please, because we're about to go to the telephones. Here now is Arrington, in Washington, D.C. Arrington, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ARRINGTONHow you doing?
NNAMDII'm doing well. Are you still there, Arrington?
ARRINGTONYes, I am.
NNAMDIGo ahead, Arrington.
NNAMDIYou're on the air. Ask your question or make a comment.
ARRINGTONHow you doing?
ARRINGTONYeah, my question, obviously relates to east of the river and you've already spoke to it a bit because it's adjacent to P.G. County, of course. We had a recent shooting of a young man in the back by an officer, and also the break-in in the schools, Savoy and others, concerned about those issues.
NNAMDIOf course, this is former D.C. Council member and former D.C. Council chair, Arrington Dixon. Did I out you, Arrington?
NNAMDIGo ahead. Here's Chief Lanier.
SHERWOODA current member of the National Capitol Planning Commission, but go ahead, Chief. There's a lot of concern. You had a meeting there just this week.
LANIERYeah, Kojo's on his game. Yes, I did. I actually organized a community meeting last night to talk about a variety of issues to include the latest police shooting, last night. And, you know, I can always tell when there is unease in a community about issues involving public safety or police because I have so many different ways that people communicate with -- so that's why I called the meeting. And I would say in terms of the police shooting and what I told people last night is the only fact that we know right now -- because before all the evidence is gathered and analyzed by the prosecutors to make a determination on the actual shooting, whether it was justified or not -- which takes some time -- is that the officers had responded to the location the day before for a man with a gun in regards to a domestic violence.
LANIERThe same individual was at that same location the day before alleged by a girlfriend or wife that he had a gun at that time. And he was back at that location. So they knew when the encounter began that this was the situation. Now, once all of the statements have been taken and all the evidence has been collected and then presented to the United States Attorney's office, they will make the final determination as to whether this was a justifiable use of force or not. I mean that's just kind of the way it works. And any speculation of what the situation was before that is only speculation.
LANIERYou can't really make judgments on what happened until all that stuff has been analyzed.
SHERWOODHow long does that generally take? As you know, people want to know an answer immediately, but it takes time.
LANIERWell, it's different in different cases…
SHERWOODBuy is it days, weeks?
LANIER…because there's physical evidence, there is ballistic evidence, there in some cases is DNA evidence, there's multiple statements. So it typically takes a few months.
NNAMDIArrington, thank you very much for your call. Happy New Year to you. Let's talk about what's going on in the 7th District. One 7th District officer arrested in a child sex case recently committing suicide, another accused of running an under-age prostitution ring. It's my understanding you told residents last night that there's an investigation that has not turned up evidence of widespread corruption in District 7. But what concerns do you have more broadly about how those incidents and others are affecting the credibility of the Department in communities that they serve?
LANIERActually, I was very pleased with the turnout and the meeting last night. And also the comments coming from the members of the community. So of the two cases, the more concerning -- obviously for me as the manager of the Police Department is you have one of those cases, the officer Mark Washington, who, on duty, in uniform, as a part of his job, responded to a call from a parent who was looking for police to help with a situation and the officer, as a part of his official duties, takes this young 15-year-old girl, who had been a missing person or runaway at the time, into a separate room and tells her he needs to take photographs of her so that we could identify her if she goes missing again.
LANIERWell, fortunately for us, this 15-year-old girl had the courage to tell her mother immediately after the officer left and the mother called us immediately after she was told. And she actually called the 7th District supervisor, who immediately notified internal affairs and within hours we had the officer in handcuffs, under arrest. So the concern being, you know, here's somebody who was hired in 2006. We look at first, you know, did we miss something in the background? How do we miss something that would lead a person in this line of work to do something like that?
LANIERAnd the standards are very different today than in 2006. So I feel comfortable that the hiring process now -- we hire 1 in every 25 applicants, which is a pretty low ratio -- is pretty significantly different than 2006. So I think the recruiting process is adequate.
SHERWOODWhat is the status of that case, Mark Washington? Where is it? Criminal charges being filed, have been filed, might be filed?
LANIERWell, Mark Washington was arrested. We arrested Mark Washington. He was later found deceased in the river.
SHERWOODOh, I'm sorry. I'm getting the cases mixed up.
NNAMDIYou're talking about the other officer.
SHERWOODNow, we said that was a suicide. Has it in fact been determined by the medical examiner that's a suicide? Or you guys have determined it is in fact a suicide?
LANIERThere's been no official ruling from the medical examiner yet, but right now there's nothing to indicate that there is anything other than -- looks like it is a suicide. There's no indication of foul play.
NNAMDIThe other officer that Tom was talking about was accused of running an underage prostitution ring.
LANIERSure. So this is the case, you know, and as I was explaining to residents last night, that this is guy, he was hired in '89. So again, you look at the recruiting process, how different it was back then. But he had not been on a full-duty status. He had been off on leave or on a limited-duty status, detailed away from the 7th District for 9 or 10 months. So when you look at the misconduct that he was involved in, it was off-duty and inside of his own home. And even though our policy allows us to fire officers or terminate officers for misconduct off-duty -- and they know that they're off-duty conduct is every bit as important as their on-duty conduct -- it's so much harder to detect misconduct when it's off-duty and in your own home.
LANIERSo the supervisors, you know, there was nothing when we looked back to look at supervisor abuse and any prior discipline and things like that that would have indicated that there was that kind of activity going on with this officer. So a lot harder for us to detect, but once we came across the officer in the course of another investigation, again, we did what we had to do and we made an arrest.
NNAMDIBut you see no pattern either in District 7 or anywhere else in the Metropolitan Police Department, of corruption?
LANIERObviously we wanted to make sure that there was nothing being missed. So internal affairs is still currently -- no stone is going unturned. So we have interviewed all the officers and supervisors in the 7th District. And right now there's no indication at all that the two worked together, knew each other or in any way were associated with each other. Again, Barnhill, the second officer, had been detailed away for some time. So we have nothing to suggest that there was any link between the two. And the officers are really quite outraged about the whole thing.
NNAMDIOur guest is Cathy Lanier, chief of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. If you have questions or comments for the chief, give us a call at 800-433-8850. If you have questions or comments for Tom, forget it. You can also send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
SHERWOODIn the investigation of the officer with the alleged prostitution, I think he had a police officer as a roommate.
LANIERI don't think at the current time they were.
SHERWOODAt current, okay. Are you going back and checking cell phone records? What does -- I don't know what internal affairs does? Do you check to see -- some people have said to me -- without any evidence -- that this was much larger than this guy just messing around with one or two women. There were several, a dozen or more women involved in his ring. Can you give a sense how active this ring was or how big it was?
LANIERYeah, so no, there's nothing right now to say that this is a much bigger or larger ring. And so I don't get myself in trouble in commenting on specific evidence in this case, I will say, in general, in a case like this, every bit of evidence that needs to be exploited is going to be exploited. When we look at a case of this nature we are going to seize and search anything that might have indications or evidence to support the charges that have already been filed.
SHERWOODLike cell phone records are very important things. Give you a lot of contacts.
LANIERDigital media of all kinds.
SHERWOODI would like to ask a broader question about police behavior because, as you know, you have, what, about 4,000 officers. People come and go, but around 4,000; is that correct?
SHERWOODYou've talked about the hiring standards of 2006, which weren't as good as they are now. You talked about the hiring standards of 1989 and '90. Has there been any effort by the Police Department to go back and just review all the people who were hired in those periods of time and to look back, rather than wait for them to do something wrong, but just to look back and see if there's something you're missing for the officers? Some of them, I'm sure, are great officers and I don't want to smear them all because they came in those years.
LANIERI'm actually an '89, '90.
SHERWOODSo there you go.
LANIERSo I actually I'll get a little broader than that. Two years ago I asked my internal affairs to do an analysis of every officer that was terminated for serious misconduct or arrested. And do an analysis of all of those officers and tell me what is the most common factor amongst those officers. Which shift -- is there a common shift that they work? Is there a common demographic of those officers, age group or District or whatever? So we did that analysis two years ago. And from that analysis we created our integrity program. And that's what the internal affairs does, is they take the people -- we know people that are most at risk for that kind of conduct came from classes of '89, '90.
LANIERThere was another small group in that analysis from, I believe, 2003, '04 and '05. And then so we used that analysis to do our integrity check program. And so we got into these active integrity checks. We've had some success with the integrity checks, in that we have intervened with people who didn't pass the integrity check and the misconduct was not criminal, but enough for us to initiate action to try and remove that person from the Department.
SHERWOODSo how many officers are on non-contact or administrative leave right now out of your force?
LANIERWell, since officers can be on non-contact or administrative leave for a variety of different things, I mean everything from medical to a variety of different things, to say how many of them…
SHERWOODNot just discipline related.
LANIERNot discipline related. I mean…
SHERWOODDo you have a number for discipline related people on non-contact?
LANIERI look at a number every day of the number of people that are unavailable for duty, but that is a lump sum number that includes military leave and admin leave and medical leave. And that's about 230. How many of those are for disciplinary cases I will guess. Normally it's maybe 30, 35 or 40. And that includes, you know, a lot of times if an allegation is serious when it comes in, we'll put somebody on non-contact or administrative duties until we determine whether there's any validity to it. And then we put them right back. So it's tough.
NNAMDIA number of people want to talk to you. We'll go with Matt, in Washington, D.C. Matt, your turn.
MATTHi, Kojo. Thank you for taking my call. I'm a big fan of the show. Thank you for letting me speak with you, Chief. I'm also a big supporter of public safety, law enforcement. Especially where I live here in the District. I personally haven't had any type of a negative contact or anything like that. Everything's always been positive. So thank you for the service that you do and that your officers do. The question that I have is you were talking about the ratio between the applicants that you receive versus the applicants that you hire and you said it was like a 25:1 ratio; is that correct?
NNAMDIOne in 25, yes.
LANIEROne in 25.
MATTOne in 25. And you said that that's actually a pretty low ratio. How is that compared to the other jurisdictions around D.C.? Because I know that Prince William County, Fairfax County, Loudoun, some of the southern Maryland jurisdictions there, they're up towards the 500, 600, 700:1 ratio. And then also my question is what exactly is being done to mitigate these types of issues when a complaint comes through? Is there any sort of augmentation to the complaints -- I guess the system of when it comes into the Police Department and if it's founded or unfounded or what action's taken from that?
NNAMDIOkay. Allow to me to have the Chief respond.
LANIERSo the reason that the ratio is for us what it is is we realize we were hiring 1 in like 300, as well, until we realized that -- which is very expensive, by the way, as you work it. So we now do a mass orientation before you even start the application process. We bring you in and we start with an orientation that says, okay, here's what this job entails and the shift work and the rotating shifts and working holidays and weekends. And then we give you a body fat assessment and say, okay, you know, your body fat percentage is higher than what it should be so, you know, before you apply you're probably going to want to lose a little bit of that weight.
LANIERWe give them a preview of what the physical agility skills -- so that's where we wash off that first 1 in 500. By the time they actually get to the application process and start with us is where we get that 1 in 25. I will tell you with the polygraph examination, which we added just two years ago, we lose about 40 percent of the applicants in that process, once they get through.
SHERWOODThat's intriguing. What kind of question would a polygraph catch?
LANIERWell, and there's two ways that people will wash out in the polygraph. And there's a pre-polygraph questionnaire where, you know, we ask you some questions. And some people wash out right there because they admit to things right there, knowing that they're going to be asked again under polygraph that will disqualify them from continuing on. And then the others, a combination of things. The polygraph itself is not solely a reason for not passing through. But some of it is a combination of results of the polygraph with other things.
SHERWOODIs that like crimes, credit records or anything that would undermine…
LANIERCrimes, yes. Yes.
SHERWOOD…their ability to be a straight arrow.
LANIERYes. I think my biggest challenge -- and, Matt, I don't know if you're eluding to it or not. My biggest challenge is we terminate people and then we have arbitration decisions where I am ordered to rehire police officers who really have no business being police officers.
NNAMDIWhat's wrong with the arbitration process?
LANIERYou know, I have a very long speech I could give you on that, but as the Police Chief, and I set policy and things for this Police Department -- if we terminate somebody for misconduct that is serious enough for a termination, it should not be overturned by an arbitrator because now I have to find places to deploy these police officers back out in the street. If I don't have the confidence that their integrity is sufficient to be police officers and I really have no say in that matter far too often.
SHERWOODDo we have a handful of those or a lot of them?
LANIERQuite a few.
NNAMDIWell, Christopher Bowman is stepping down. D.C. Police Union chair made it official he's leaving his post after eight years. He expects to return to patrol in the 7th District, which covers Anacostia and the city's southeast neighborhoods. But, of course, he is likely to be replaced and whoever replaces him is likely to be as much a thorn in your side as Chris himself was.
LANIERNo, I don't see it that. You know, I was a member of the union for a lot of my career here in MPD. I mean different people have different styles of leadership. Chris's style of leadership was to be very confrontational and…
LANIER…outspoken and a lot of accusations all the time. So that's just his leadership style. Who knows what the next person's personality or leadership style is, but the union is -- hey, everybody who works in my Police Department are my officers so I treat them all the same. And I'll work with whoever comes in.
NNAMDIHere's Bryant, in Washington, D.C. Bryant, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BRYANT…Cathy Lanier, I just read in Seattle where they're looking for a police chief. You want to tell us right now you have no interest in that job, right?
LANIERI have no interest in that job. You've got that right.
BRYANTOkay. Even if they gave you a free ticket -- they've got a football team. But my question is since you've been a police chief homicides have been down, but when you count them uniformly over the years since you've been a police chief we're still approaching close to 1,000 homicides or 700 or 800 homicides. I know it's a significant number. Do you have a strategy going forward? Because 98 percent of the people are killed are African American kids in our city. And do you have strategy going forward that can help break some of this violence up before we even get back to the gangs? We know that as homicides -- that the gangs will start to form and then we have retaliation and stuff like that.
BRYANTI'm a child of the '80s and I know that that's how it grew from an egg fight into a shooting war. And I just want to know your strategy going forward.
LANIERWell, there is still some of that. I mean that is not completely gone. I mean we've made a lot of progress, but I don't know if you follow other cities, but Mayor Nutter in Philly has organized with police chiefs from -- major city chiefs around the country, and, you know, that statistic of young African-American homicide numbers is consistent across America.
LANIERAnd he's trying to organize cities -- and not just police. I mean, we are a huge part of it. But, I mean, there is a lot of other things and other entities in government and in families and in neighborhoods trying to organize a movement to get everybody involved and to try and reduce that number of young African-American males that are homicide victims, you know, across the United States.
NNAMDIWere you approached about the job in Seattle at all?
SHERWOODNew York. Can -- I want to -- before we...
LANIERI have a job.
SHERWOODWell, you mentioned Kris Baumann and whether you like his style or not, he did work very hard, you know, in trying to represent officers as best he could. And I will tell you the one thing I hear from the officers when I'm around in town is that, since you've been chief, there has not been a union contract. There have not been raises, not...
NNAMDII have a specific question about that, which I would like to include in this conversation because Chante (sp?) has been on the phone for a while. Chante, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CHANTEHi. Good afternoon, Kojo. I love your show.
CHANTEHi, Tom. Love you as well.
CHANTEMy question is about the union contract. The police officers have been without a contract for the last seven years. What is the police chief doing about this? I understand she and all of her top aides got raises.
SHERWOODThere you go.
LANIERSo, yeah, here we go. So, first of all, by law, I don't have the authority to negotiate pay raises, so I don't -- first of all, there's not a police chief in this country that doesn't want their cops to get a pay raise. I want my cops to get a pay raise just like everybody else. And that is not -- but I can't negotiate pay raises. All the compensation is negotiated by the city.
LANIERAnd if you think about it, since the city has to divvy the budget out across all the agencies, that makes sense. I can't determine how much of the city's budget I'm going to get for pay raises. I do push for pay raises for my officers because I -- you know, again, it would be foolish for me not to want them to get a pay raise.
LANIERAnd I want to clear one other thing up. We -- I fought hard. We are one of the only agencies in the city that, over the past several years, when other agencies didn't get step increases and didn't get any other type of pay raises, I fought to take money from other places in my budget to make sure our officers continue to get their step increases. And officers have gotten longevities and BRD raises, too, so...
LANIERIt's a base retention differential.
LANIERSo officers have continued to get step increases, you know, annually as they go through. They have continued to get their 5 percent longevity raises every five years and their BRDs. We were able to fight to pull that from other places within my budget. But in terms of negotiations, contract negotiations, we were in full negotiations in '07 when the union filed a grievance, right at the beginning of arbitration, and it got held up for almost four years. That's not something I can control.
LANIERSo I want my cops to get a pay raise. We're in arbitration now. Hopefully we will have a final decision in the next few weeks, and this will be over. I really want to have a contract.
SHERWOODIs this -- are the issues the pay raise? Or are there work issues that intractable like that you're just trying to -- things that you want as your authority as chief that the officers' union doesn't want you to have? What are the work issues beyond the pay raises?
LANIERRight now, the only thing in the final stages right now that are going through for this arbitration are compensation, so that is, you know, a mediation with the FOP and the city.
SHERWOODSo the mayor could say, I want to get the police officers a raise, and he basically could do it, right?
LANIERWell, I'm not going to violate any rules on contract negotiations, but I think the mayor has said he wants people in the city to have a pay raise, all employees in the city to have a pay raise. And I don't think the police officers...
SHERWOODI just find as much as people want to talk about the first line of defense, public safety, and the officers, that is an extraordinarily long time, even if you discount the four years where the union maybe didn't make a good move by filing a grievance the last -- that means that's three years they still haven't gotten a raise. It just seems politically it would be something that the leaders of the city would want, that you'd want for all these officers who are out here every day.
LANIERI think everybody wants us to...
SHERWOODI'm hearing some words that it might have something very, very soon.
LANIERThat's what I hear. I hear -- I think in the next few weeks, we'll have some final decision, which is great for all of us.
NNAMDIThe last time you and I chatted in the summer, we talked about robberies, particularly robberies of smartphones and other electronics that can be sold on secondary markets. Where do you see your strategies for combating those kinds of crimes working? Where do you feel you might still be coming up short?
LANIERSo we had a pretty significant reduction in robberies this year. We drove robberies down this year. We focused a lot of effort on it this year, so we brought robberies down 5 percent across the city. Robberies and thefts of cellphones, though, in the big picture of overall thefts and robberies, is still going up.
LANIERIt is still the single most sought-after item for theft and robbery. So even though we've had a -- and not only did we reduce the robberies 5 percent, but the number of homicides that were the result of a robbery also decreased pretty significantly for us this year. So I think our efforts are working. Just...
NNAMDIBut if this is a matter of changing the conditions that allow these secondary markets of stolen goods to go unchecked, what else do you think feel is to be done?
SHERWOODAnd also about breaking the phone, so once it's stolen, it goes dead?
LANIERAnd we've tried everything. And, you know, we went to the FCC for the breaking process for, like, a -- kind of like a national solution. And we went after the secondhand dealers and the places in the city that were reselling the stolen phones and changed legislation there. And it just seems like every time we take one tactic and it's successful, there's some other -- so now we're working on manufacturing these phones to have devices that can remotely permanently disable these phones, so they can't be sold. So it's just, you know, it's a tough issue.
SHERWOODCan we talk about guns?
SHERWOODThe city went to a great deal of trouble to figure out how to register guns in the city, particularly after the Supreme Court decision that said you can't just simply ban handguns. So -- but now there's a -- I've heard some complaints that all the people who have registered handguns have to reregister, and it's an onerous nightmare for them to come back down and reregister. You were telling me just before the show that it's not -- they're all have to be in in the next couple of weeks. What's happening with the gun registration in the city? About how many do we have? And does everyone have to reregister?
LANIERSo there's about 30,000 firearms that are showing as registered from 1975 up until, you know, till now. And the process is the legislation was passed, requires re-registration every 3 years. So to start this off, so everybody -- those 30,000 guns don't all have to be reregistered at the same time, we're doing it over the course of the next two years. So we mailed out the first 2,800 notices to the 30,000 registered guns that were prior to January 2011.
LANIERSo anybody who registered prior to January 2011, the first 2,800 letters went out in December. And we've already had -- that was Dec. 31. And we've already had 61 people come in and reregister, so...
SHERWOODAnd what period of time do these 2,800 have to reregister?
LANIERThey have three months. Once you get your letter, you have three months, so you can either come in Monday through Friday, 9 to 5. Or we have appointments for after hours when you can come in after hours and schedule that way. So right now there's no, you know, huge log jammer, you know, crowds of people, and the re-registration's going well. And so we'll continue to do this over the next two years until we're caught up.
NNAMDIHere's Tony in Washington, D.C. Tony, your turn.
TONYThank you, Kojo. I love your show. I listen every day. Also, Chief Lanier, I also want to thank you for your commitment and service to our city.
TONYHere's my call. I work at Howard University's Capital Institute. And we have been funded by NIH to conduct a research project. And the focus is minority men's health initiatives. The goal is to identify interventions and programs that will reduce violence among African-American males and eliminate the disproportionately higher rates of violence among these males as compared to other racial and ethnic groups.
TONYAnd it's interesting that I heard a caller earlier talk about the elimination and prevention of crime and certainly the deaths. I'd like to know if there's an opportunity to meet with you or someone that you would designate to discuss this. This is a five-year project, so it's something that we're hoping we can put in place for the city to benefit, you know, all of the citizens, but certainly have this positive impact on our African-American males.
LANIERSure. I'm going to -- if you stay on the line after the call, I have a staff member here who can get your contact information. But, yes, and I would suggest, from the title or that you mentioned that you start with children. I mean, I really think the key is for us to have a strategy that's, you know, useful and long term, we've got to start intervening much, much earlier with children because there are so many indicators of what's going to put children at risk before they become young men and before they become victims of violence.
LANIERSo we'd be happy to partner with you. We like working with the universities because it's, you know, a lot of extra hands to help us do some of the research analysis. So if you stay on the line, I'll have my staff get your number.
NNAMDITony, I have put on hold, so we will take your number and pass it on to the chief's people. Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODI want to ask you about another crime that's occurred, the Wilson Pool incidents where the two men were accused of bringing the women into the Wilson Pool after hours and sexually assaulting them. What -- there haven't been any arrests. Or what's happening there? There are a lot of people that use the Department of Recreation services.
LANIERRight. And I think a lot of people, especially initially, because it's -- it's very difficult to give out information and particularly in sexual assault cases. A lot of people initially believe that children or young people that were going to the pool were being assaulted while at the pool during business hours by employees. And it was not the case. It was a person who worked at the pool who met women in social media and other environments and then just used that as a place to come back to after hours for these alleged assaults to take place.
LANIERSo the way sexual assault investigations often do work -- because, again, you have forensic evidence. And vast majority of the time, sexual assault allegations involve the suspect and the victim only. There are no witnesses. And so you -- the investigations are complicated and rely heavily on forensic evidence. So there typically is a delay from allegation to arrest, so those are the processes for these types of cases. And they're very complicated cases. So I would just say right now that it's still a very active ongoing investigation, and we have no new victims.
SHERWOODAnd still two suspects?
NNAMDITony said he was calling from Howard University where we remember a student was killed right practically on campus on the corner of George and Fairmont Street. Last fall, there were reports that a few local universities were pushing harder to expand their campus security forces into the neighborhood surrounding them. What do you feel should be, well, the ideal approach to crime in parts of the city and how campus security could be involved?
LANIERYou know, that's a tough issue. I mean, you know, as the police chief, do I want to say, no, I don't want somebody else coming out and helping us with some of the workload? But I think the universities are in a unique position, that they have leverage on conduct of students, whether on campus or not, through the parents. A lot of these students, their parents are paying their tuition. And so, most often, what we see off campus is conduct issues, and the university's ability to intervene and use that leverage, which is non-criminal, you know, non-punitive, like law enforcement, there's some benefit to that.
LANIERBut, you know, I think the issue of having them have police authority outside the campus is a little bit different. So we really haven't looked into exactly what it is they're looking for and that all the universities are looking for that. So those are still just in discussion status.
SHERWOODAnd another community issue is that the police department and the fire department have worked together to have fire department engines sitting out on public streets as some type of deterrent. I'm not sure exactly how it works. But we're told now that some of the firefighters who have been out sitting in their fire trucks to have a presence in crime neighborhoods have had their own cars broken into. Have you heard about this issue?
LANIERNo. I haven't. They're having their cars broken into, sitting at the firehouse?
SHERWOODYes. While they're out sitting in their fire truck to give some kind of public safety presence in the neighborhood where there might be some crimes, but there are -- several of their cars have been broken into?
LANIERWell, it sounds like where they are is deterrent a crime then, doesn't it? That almost validates the deputy mayor's position that where the firefighters are sitting, there's a deterrent of crime. They left their station, and now the crime is at the station. Is that what you're saying?
SHERWOODLike squeezing the bubble, I guess. But, I mean, they were squeezing the balloon that you go somewhere to fight crime in one place, crime occurs where you left. But does that really work to have firefighters who are not sworn police officers, don't carry guns, just have a big fire truck or vehicle sitting out somewhere in the neighborhood?
LANIERWell, I mean, you know, I...
LANIERNo. But I don't think the deputy mayor or the fire chief is asking to do any police work at all. And, you know, having them, you know, a visible government presence out in a community, I mean, if I was going to commit a crime, would I commit it in front of a government employee who's in the public safety sector? I mean, probably going to be a pretty good witness, I would think. So I think there is a deterrent effect. And it is also good for people in the community.
LANIERYou know, children and family folks, they love the fire department. They love their firefighters. They love the fire trucks. It's a good opportunity to interact with people in the community instead of, you know, maybe sitting two blocks away inside of the firehouse.
SHERWOODAnd I've got -- can I ask a minute...
NNAMDIWe got an email from Christopher about that who said, "The posting of firefighters as deterrents, they're, after all, firefighters, not crime fighters."
LANIERAnd they're not being asked to do any, you know, any police work. I think just, again, you know, if you're going to commit a crime, you certainly are not going to do it in -- you don't want to do it in front of somebody who's going to be a good witness. And a government employee in the public safety sector probably is going to be a pretty good witness.
SHERWOODI've got to ask you about the police officer last year -- the boating incident by Georgetown, the police officer in the police boat or whatever went zooming off in the water and sunk somebody else's boat by...
LANIERThat was pretty dramatic video, wasn't it?
SHERWOODAnd we'll play it again. What's the status of it? What's the status of that?
LANIERI don't think it's complete. But I haven't checked on it in a while. It should be close. We usually only take about 90 days to get that done. But I...
SHERWOODBut this was last summer.
LANIERYeah. I haven't seen it come back across my desk.
SHERWOODCan we -- may I make a request that we find out after the show -- find out what the status of that case is, so I can play that video again?
LANIERYes, you may. Yes. Yeah, that is a pretty dramatic video.
NNAMDIMary in Washington, D.C., you're on the air. Mary, go ahead, please.
MARYHi. Good afternoon. I'm Mary, and I'm first-time caller. And I have questions regarding the police complaint board. I wish I had heard the whole program, but I just tuned in. And when I heard Cathy Lanier, I thought this could be directed towards her and...
NNAMDIWell, we only have about a minute or two left, so...
MARYOK. Here's a quick question. All right. So the quick question is, why is it that when somebody goes into the police complaint board and there's a person overseeing that they need to take a lawyer in in order to protect themselves against the police that they're bringing complaint against and their lawyer? And how is it that in those proceedings that the police is conducting himself in such a bad manner where he's actually calling names at and then to have a decision to say that it's 51-to-49 percent? So I -- and just...
NNAMDIBut -- most of what you're talking about -- you asked about, I don't know. But, apparently, the first point she made is that one has to have a lawyer with one to appear before the complaint...
LANIERSo she's asking about the officer police complaints. It's an independent agency that was created so that people could make complaints about police officer conduct if they didn't feel comfortable with an internal investigation by MPD, by our internal affairs. They could make it through an independent agency. So I can't speak to the policies of the officer police complaints. You'd have to ask that of the folks that run that office. But it is an independent agency, and it's designed to give you an independent review of police officer conduct. So I really can't answer that question.
SHERWOODDo you get a lot of complaints at your own complaint board at the police department?
SHERWOODIs it up, down, about the same, kind of routine?
LANIERIt has been pretty consistent over the past several years. I haven't seen the year-end comparison yet. Usually I get it by the end of January. So I don't know if it was up last...
NNAMDIWe're in the middle of another election year in the District. There's a possibility that you may have a new boss in about a year's time. How would that affect any decision you make about whether you'd like to continue serving?
LANIERI still like my job. My bosses are out there on the street. I see them every day. And as long as I'm welcome here, I want to stay here.
NNAMDIWhen you say your bosses are out there on the streets, you mean me and Tom, the citizens.
LANIERThe residents of the city, that's right.
NNAMDIYes. We are residents of the city. Cathy Lanier is the chief of...
SHERWOODCitizen of the city, not a resident.
NNAMDIYou're a citizen of the city?
SHERWOODCitizen of the city. I don't like this residence word.
NNAMDICathy Lanier is chief of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia. Thank you so much for joining us, Slim.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers.
SHERWOODI'll be at the health and fitness thing Sunday morning, 9:30 to noon, at the convention center.
NNAMDILooking unhealthy and unfit. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
In author Jabari Asim's fictionalized St. Louis -- the 'Gateway City' first introduced in his short story collection 'A Taste of Honey' –- characters come to grips with the fallout of the civil rights era in surprising ways. We talk with Asim about the fictional world he created and examine the realities of how we deal with race in America today.
We explore the lessons from cities that have boosted their minimum wage as D.C. activists try to get a minimum wage hike on the ballot next year.
Kojo sits down with Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen to talk about her first months on the job, how she's prioritizing public health needs, and how her personal story instructs her vision for health policy and progress in Baltimore.