On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
Prince George’s County politicians ponder pay raises. Text books ignite historical disputes in Virginia. And a late-night incident sparks a debate about “vigilante justice” in the District. 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.)
Politics Hour Extra
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier responds to criticisms that she inappropriately told the press an alleged beating death outside of a U Street nightclub last week was the result of what appeared to be “vigilante justice:”
Chief Lanier talks about the reasons she has asked the media and community members not to identify specific gangs within the city in connection with crime:
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier responds to a caller’s question about several incidents involving officers shooting dogs. She notes that the department enhanced training for dealing with dogs two years ago, and that all officers are re-certified in the use of firearms twice a year:
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to The Politics Hour featuring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Joining us in studio this hour will be the chief of the Metropolitan Police Department in the District of Columbia. But before we get to Cathy Lanier, Tom Sherwood, a few issues that I'd like to discuss with you.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIA. Scott Bolden versus Mount Kilimanjaro.
MR. TOM SHERWOODOh, my goodness.
NNAMDIAnd the mountain won. The thin air got Scott hallucinating. He saw flying dragons. And even worse, he saw his client Carlos Allen, the not so famous White House state dinner crasher, winning the mayoral race. So he knew then that he was hallucinating, time to come down off the mountain.
NNAMDIWell, A. Scott Bolden is very successful lawyer in town. He does have several visions that I don't quite measure off.
SHERWOODBut you know, people don't know. I mean, he ran for office. He ran a very good campaign...
SHERWOOD...did very poorly four years ago. He represents quite a few people in town. If -- you know, people who are in trouble for various reasons. But I just can't picture him trying to climb a mountain.
SHERWOODEven the side which is supposedly easiest to walk up.
NNAMDIHe didn't make it. And of course, our own producer, Brendan Sweeney, made it to the top. You think you and I should give it a try?
SHERWOODI'll give that all the attention it deserves. (laugh)
NNAMDIAnd that is not gonna happen.
SHERWOODUnless that I ride a bicycle only on the flat parts of Washington, I'm not -- want to go up a mountain.
NNAMDINot gonna happen. The Washington Post had some endorsement today in the upcoming election. The one that surprised me most is that The Washington Post endorsed Republican David Hedgepeth over Mary Cheh in Ward 3, writing, "On the single most important issue facing the city school reform, Ms. Cheh failed to provide the principle leadership her constituents should expect." Were you surprised by that?
SHERWOODWell, her constituents, you know, voted 80 percent to 20 percent for Adrian Fenty, and in by design, Michelle Rhee and Cheh endorsed Vincent Gray. I think they don't like the way she has pursued a lot of what people would call latte liberal issues, on environment issues and things like that. But they just really were disappointed with her on education issues by not supporting Michelle Rhee.
NNAMDIBut of course, a city councilmember has to do a lot more than simply support the school's chancellor. They have to provide constituent service. They have to introduce and get legislation passed. And it would appear that Ms. Cheh has done quite a lot of that.
SHERWOODTrue. But they didn't go after all of those on the editorial. I mean, I just -- you know, school reform was the big issue for 2010 in this city. And that's what -- that had a lot to do with it.
NNAMDIOkay. On to the state of Maryland. Former President Bill Clinton campaigned on behalf of Governor Martin O'Malley yesterday. Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, will be coming to Maryland to campaign for former Governor Bob Ehrlich this weekend. But it still looks as if O'Malley has a significant advantage there.
SHERWOODI think it's a competitive race. I believe it's not what I think.
NNAMDIBecome more competitive.
SHERWOODI want to say this to the people who are, you know, who are watching that race and the people who are covering that race and the political people who are in that race say it is a competitive race. O'Malley is trying very desperately to get -- not desperately but aggressively to get the base voters out, and that's what they're trying to do with Bill Clinton and all the others.
NNAMDIIn Virginia, Civil War textbook flap, the book "Our Virginia" was distributed to fourth graders last month with a passage saying, wrongly according to most scholars, that thousands of African-Americans fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. There's some politics involved here, isn't it?
SHERWOODWell, if you took the word thousands out, it should be right. Some African-Americans did fight on the South side. I mean, there were -- but thousands, I don't think so. I mean, there's just no historical record for that.
NNAMDIIt's the Politics Hour featuring Tom Sherwood. He's our resident analyst, a reporter at NBC 4 and columnist for the Current Newspapers. A week ago last Friday, an incident occurred outside a D.C. nightclub that was described by the police chief as a savage case of vigilante justice. Five men have been charged with assault in this case in which a man allegedly threw bricks through the club's window and was then reportedly beaten by a co-owner and by club employees. He died after the incident occurred. It's a sensational investigation with a lot of moving parts. Joining us now in studio is Cathy Lanier. She is chief of the Metropolitan Police Department in the District of Columbia. Chief Lanier, welcome. Good to see you.
MS. CATHY LANIERI'm glad to be back.
NNAMDIA week after this incident, what is this investigation all about to you?
LANIERI know there's a lot of people that are curious and want additional information, but, unfortunately, with an ongoing investigation, there's very little I can say. Typically, you know, consistently, what I normally will say about crimes like this is whatever is in the charging document, well, that's a public record. So I try and keep within the guidelines of what was in the charging document. That's all been in the press. So any additional information beyond that, other than are awaiting the final report from the medical examiner, really, I can't comment on.
SHERWOODWell, part of that issue just -- I mean, we are -- do you have any sense of when the medical examiner will give more definitive reason for the cause of death, because that was one of the issues? It's that -- at first, they talked to these guys and maybe beaten this person to death, and then it wasn’t clear that that had happened. And so you have to wait for the next shoe to fall.
LANIERYeah. I think the issue really is determining what actually caused the death. I don't think there's a lot of confusion about what actually was observed by witnesses. The confusion -- or really the question that is left to be answered is what was it that caused the death, and that can be a variety of different things. And so I think the medical examiner is just being prudent to make sure that all the toxicology and other tests come back before she makes her final ruling.
NNAMDIAnd, Tom Sherwood, I got a number of tweets this morning from people saying, "Well, don't talk about this too much, just let the legal process take its course." But when something like this happens, how can you stop people in the media from talking about it?
SHERWOODWell, how do you stop?
LANIERThat's a good question.
SHERWOODDon't give the chief any ideas. Well, the fact is people are interested in what happened. And the media reflects that in what we cover, and people are interested in what happened there. I mean, this happened -- what was it? Ninth and U Street?
SHERWOODNear -- or Ninth Street, just below U? Just a couple of weeks ago, there's that horrific shooting where somebody got shot, leaving from a funeral service.
SHERWOODNo one is -- when people, whoever they are, go out in the street, they're meeting someone, it creates -- people want to know what attention is and how is it going to be fixed.
NNAMDINot only people, whoever they are but wherever they are, because Jennifer is calling from Santa Ana, California. Here is Jennifer. Jennifer, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JENNIFERHi, I wanted to call in and just in support of my friend, William Spieler, who I've known since 1983. I went to college with him, and we've been friends for many, many years. And I'm also friends with many members of the staff of DC9. I'm a native Washingtonian, but I've been living in California for several years now. I just wanted to call in and just let you know that, you know, from being 3,000 miles away, my only access to kind of piece together the story was looking at clips on the Internet from the media. And I have to say, Justice Lanier, with all respect, you know, smirking and saying vigilante justice before an investigation has even began is really upsetting, you know, to me and to everyone involved. And my sympathies go out to everyone here. My sympathies go out to the family of the deceased and to everyone in the staff that is being accused before they're even on trial.
LANIERNow, Jennifer, like I -- well, first of all, I can appreciate your support for friends and associates for you, and there is just a sad situation here. And, you know, I have the same feelings on both sides. It's sad for both sides. But, you know, the statement that was given the day after this incident occurred, as I said, is based on the charging document, witness statements. And, you know, I try and be as open and honest with the public as possible. And I think that's, you know, where I try and stick to when I have to make these statements.
NNAMDIOkay, let's move on and talk politics for a second. The D.C. City Council approved legislation this week that would publicly release the names of certain juvenile offenders. What's your opinion of the bill, and what's your philosophy for when it's appropriate for that kind of information to become part of the public record? For those who haven't heard of it, council members said the law is needed to make it easier for police and youth and social service agencies to communicate with each other as they try to stem shootings and homicides involving juveniles. The legislation would allow the public to learn the names of violent criminals under age 18 if they have committed a violent crime or certain kind of property crime.
LANIERThere's a lot more in the bill than just that. And the things in the bill that mean the most, to me, are really access for us, much deeper access for us in terms of information we need to try and prevent crimes and trying to help some of these kids and protect them. But in terms of releasing the names for the public, I know there's been a lot of -- over the past two years in almost every community meeting I go to, a lot of outcry from the community. They wanna know if there is a repeat violent offender in their neighborhood, and they don't really care whether they're adults or juveniles. If they were repeat violent offender, they wanna be aware of it. And so I think that's what this bill is trying to accomplish.
SHERWOODHow quickly -- I know this is to allow investigators access to information that's held very tightly, but how public would this be? Would, in fact, media people get to know if someone's a repeat offender under this bill? I'm not quite clear how far it goes in terms of public disclosure. Well, I know you want information for your investigation.
LANIERRight. There's a lot of access now for me. And just because of the way the laws were written before, simple things like if there is a -- for example, in New Beginnings. We had the fight up at New Beginnings when some of the staff members were hurt. There's video that we wanted to retrieve as a part of the investigation. That was important for us to have that night.
LANIERAnd because the law read that the records were not to be shared, they considered that a record. And, you know, I'm trying to investigate a crime and I can't get access to video. That's a big deal. So the access to the records for the police department is the important and broader piece of this bill. I think any time there is -- the criteria is met in this bill that we can release the name of a repeat violent offender, it'd be released publicly, which means to the media as well.
SHERWOODCouncilmember Harry Thomas and others on the Council were concerned that some of the juveniles who are trying to be rehabilitated and steered away from lives of crime would be a record fully damaged if their records got out. But I understand that this law will only go to the most serious repeat violators of...
LANIERExactly. And I think that's what we're all concerned about. Juveniles are adults aside. You know, I've spent the last four years focusing our entire police department on the most serious violent repeat offenders because that's really the toughest problem to deal with. It takes all your resources. And so I think narrowing the focus so it's not just this broad release of information is important to remember.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call. Our guest is Cathy Lanier. She is 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. The Washington City Paper ran an article on its website this week questioning why you wouldn't name the crews involved in a string of shootings in the Petworth neighborhood. City Paper claimed that you asked people at a community meeting to refrain from naming the gangs identified in the blogs and community lip service. What's your reasoning behind that request?
LANIERWell, there's a lot of inaccuracies in the story. But, you know, I did a presentation for the community members in which I not only laid out the gangs that are involved. They're not crews. They're gangs. I laid out the gangs that are involved, the areas that they operate in and what's been going on back and forth between these gangs, including some shootings and some homicides and then multiple sounds of gunshots that we've been investigating between these two gangs. And I asked them not to release the names of gangs. I asked the press that were there. They were welcome to stay. I asked the participants in the audience to not release the names of the gangs because they do seek notoriety. They do seek some attention. Anybody who thinks they don't is just not paying attention. This is how they gain status. Now, obviously, nobody has to abide by my request. It was a simple request. People are asking me how I can, you know, how we can improve public safety. That's a good recommendation. Don't give these gang members any notoriety. They don't deserve it. And it only empowers them, so, you know? And the City Paper, I will say, got it wrong anyway when they named the gangs. So that's at least one good thing.
NNAMDIWell, I think we in the media believe that transparency is very important and that being able to name the gang should be understood. I think a lot of people don't quite understand the gang psychology that you were describing here that says, if you name them and you think that they will shrink because they've been named, no. If you name them, that gives them notoriety. The other gang...
LANIERStreet credibility. It's called street credibility.
NNAMDIStreet cred. The other gangs down the street will now that we're dangerous.
SHERWOODThe reasonable position for news organization to take is that if a gang is involved in a specific kind of crime and that's part of the investigation, then we're gonna probably name them because they are. But if you're giving a community thing and you don't want to just -- if it's not immediate to the -- a crime that might name them -- I agree with you. You don't have to name them in that kind of setting you just described. But if they're involved in a crime, then I think you need to name them.
LANIERWell, the other important thing about transparency though, remember, I could have asked the press to leave. I could have done just a private briefing meeting with the community. But, you know, I left it up to them to make a decision based on what they heard in that presentation. And I thought that they were all very respectful and made a good decision.
NNAMDISo if gang activity gets media attention, you say it emboldens the gangs rather than causes them to want to withdraw?
LANIERWell, naming the gangs, yes. Because then it gives them some credibility on the street.
SHERWOODNow, can I just ask you, in general, how serious -- is it isolated gang? And some people would say we've got dozens of gangs all over town. I agree with you. Just don't call them crews. They are gangs. Do we have huge numbers of gangs? Do we have a few active ones and some wannabes? How serious is the gang issue in the city of Washington?
LANIERThat's a great question, and I get that all the time. Over the past four years, you know, for many, many years, we referred to them as neighborhood crews, loosely knit organizations. So what I did starting on 2007 is I -- using the gang intelligence unit and a few other units, you know, let's just stop calling everybody that hangs out together in a particular neighborhood, where there is drug dealing and violent crime, a gang member from that neighborhood. Let's validate who are truly gang members. And there's a criteria to validate what is a gang member. Gang members -- you know, there's about eight or nine different criteria that we use. But they have to be involved in criminal activity. Most of them will self report or have tattoos or a name, you know, the name of their gang. So, you know, we don't just throw you in a, you know, a book and say you're a gang member because you live in a certain neighborhood. We actually validate these gang members based on their criminal activity and their associations.
LANIERSo I'd say right now, this is the way I classify it across the city. We've got about four gang conflicts that we feel they're always very volatile. They will be quiet. There'll be no problems for months and months and months. And then it just takes one incident to start the conflict between the gangs. And so we have about four that we watch very closely because they're just very volatile. We know that the gang members in those groups that are validated are -- have a lot of violent gun crimes and they, you know, typically want something start. It's a -- right now currently in the city, I got two serious gang conflicts going on. Obviously, you know, down in the area of the shooting on New Street is one, and another one up in the 4th District area, which was the subject of the meeting.
NNAMDIOn to Patrick in Rockville, Md. Patrick, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
PATRICKHi, good morning or good afternoon. Yeah, this is Pat Hoover. I'm an attorney in Rockville. I just wanna comment in opposition to the D.C. proposed bill to release juvenile names to the public. It’s nonsensical and it applies in the phase of the juvenile court system established 100 years ago in this country. If these kids, whether they be gang members or repeat violent offenders, if you, in fact, get arrested and convicted for repeat offenses, they are charged as adults, no matter what their age. That's the solution. You don't have to out juveniles. Kids make mistakes. And you're throwing out the baby with the bath water by insisting that some kid is a brand new offender and still in juvenile court is all of a sudden in the newspapers. That's just wrong, even necessary.
NNAMDIWell, suppose the kid is like 12 years old or 13 years old?
NNAMDIWould you say try him in adult court?
PATRICKYou want 12-year-old in the paper? Of course not. You don't wanna see a 12-year-old in the paper. But if a 12 or 13-year-old is a career gang, like Chief Lanier is talking about then, yeah. Then that's an exception, and the courts have mechanism for that exception. It’s called waiver transfer where a juvenile under age 18 is tried as an adult...
LANIERMm-mm. Not in D.C.
PATRICKAnd there's attorney's present and it's a court rule as an adult. Then...
NNAMDIChief Lanier says not in the District of Columbia, and I suspect that's why the city council didn’t go that route.
LANIERYeah, that -- I mean, I appreciate Patrick's views on this thing. They are very strong views on both sides. First, let me say, you know, I don't write the laws. I don’t propose the laws. This law was a law that was created by the city council. I will abide by any laws that they pass. And the important component for this bill for me, as I said, the important component for me is just the ability for me to share records amongst other agencies, so we can have a better opportunity to intervene and help these kids before they progress from chronic truant to, you know...
LANIERYeah -- to other violent crime. So the request to release the names -- that was the request that came from the community. I think the council reacted to what the community has been asking for, for a long time.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Patrick. We're gonna have to take a short break because this is the final day of our fall membership campaign. We're gonna come back and ask you to become a member of WAMU 88.5, and after that, we'll resume our conversation with Chief Lanier. Stay tune to The Politics Hour. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to the Politics Hour featuring Tom Sherwood. He is our resident analyst, a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Our guest is Cathy Lanier, chief of the Metropolitan Police Department in the District of Columbia. Chief Lanier, here's Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODHe saw that I wanted to ask a question. Back to the serious matter, but that was the shooting...
NNAMDII'm leaving the room.
SHERWOODThe Department of Public Works, the employee was killed. And then there were some discussion about how the open area where the employees work and where this gunman went in. First of all, that person has not been arrested. Is that correct?
LANIERA case is not -- there's not been an arrest yet.
SHERWOODBut there -- and then there were some discussion about security that maybe the lights didn't work there, there was overgrown shrubbery or the gates weren't locked. How realistic -- without getting to that case -- how -- I know you -- I can go all around town and there are government facilities or bus depots or all that are open and they're not barricaded. How much do we need to barricade ourselves in places? Or is this case where there should've been more security?
LANIERWell, I don't know the specifics of the security issues that were raised. I know there were some talk about the lighting and things like that. But two things that you have to keep in mind is everybody should have reasonable security, not just government buildings but, you know, other buildings as well, reasonable security. But the other thing to remember is that if you have somebody who is intent on committing a violent crime like that and they're intent on carrying it out in a certain -- particular place, it would be extremely difficult to make it completely inaccessible. I mean, I just don't think there's any foolproof plan you could put in place there.
SHERWOODIt -- that goes for -- as you say, government buildings, private locations, all of that. I mean, there's only so much to do to not interfere with the rights of people to move about.
LANIERYou can do some things that deter it though, Tom. I think good lighting is always good. Some, you know, video cameras, things like that, helps to deter things like that from happening on certain areas.
SHERWOODWe all don't get to walk around with a gun like you do.
NNAMDIWell, now that the law has been passed, you could if you really, really wanted to.
SHERWOODNo, no, no.
LANIERThank you, Kojo.
SHERWOODWell, no. No. You cannot walk around the city with a gun. It has to be in your home. Isn't that right, Chief?
SHERWOODAnd, you know, my whole job is to correct Kojo.
NNAMDIWell, that's (unintelligible)
SHERWOODWhen the (unintelligible)
LANIERI wouldn't do that, Kojo.
NNAMDIYou're soon to be out of a job. Thank you, Chief Lanier. I was reading Dorothy Brizill's DCWatch the other day and came across this note by Jack McKay, which criticized the department clearance rating for robberies. He claims that the department has a 16.1 percent clearance rate for robberies, when in other cities the rate is around 21 percent. Neither rate seems that great to me. He also said robberies are up 13 percent in the District of Columbia. I was not able to verify that information myself, but the general picture we have is that crime in general and violent crime in particular is down in the District of Columbia. Are we seeing an increase in robberies?
LANIERRobberies has been a challenge nationwide, but no, actually, we're not. And more importantly, the -- currently, right now, robbery -- overall, robberies is down about 10 percent. But robberies with guns is one of the things -- I told you we've been focusing on the gun offenders. Robbery guns are down 21 percent. Now, Jack's point -- and I saw his comments. In fact, he's been e-ailing back and forth. The actual closure rate for us at this point for robberies is 20 percent. Nationwide average, 21 percent.
NNAMDISo it's about the same, basically.
SHERWOODWell, and robberies to be clear here...
NNAMDIWhy is it so low?
LANIERWell, and, you know, one thing is it takes a little while for the clearance rates to get into the system, because once, you know, you investigate, it takes a little time to make the arrest. Once the arrest is made, they update the system, and it goes back in. So there's a little lag time to get the closures in. Robberies is a difficult crime. A lot of times, suspects are wearing a mask.
SHERWOODNow, and we are talking about robberies, and people get burglaries and robberies, and they conflate those two. But the fact, robbery is somebody -- by some type of force.
LANIERRobbery is when a person has something taken from them by force or violence.
SHERWOODRight. And so burglaries, we have many burglar. How are we doing in burglaries so the people will feel safe in their homes and apartments? How are we doing burglary wise?
LANIERBurglary, well, is not as good. Burglaries are actually...
SHERWOODThat's why -- I knew that. You know that's why I brought it up.
LANIERYes. Burglaries are up. They're up almost 10 percent. It's about 8 percent right now. Burglaries -- and we're just kind of going into the season when burglaries tend to go up because it's the holiday season. And, you know, when the time...
NNAMDIPeople want stuff.
LANIERRight. While we're doing our shopping, they're doing theirs.
SHERWOODThere's not much preventative work you can do as a police department, extra patrol in neighborhoods and things like that, right? Is there any -- what can you tell...
LANIERWell, no. There's other tactics that we can use. I mean, we do use some other tactics. I mean, there are a lot of other things we can do, and burglary is no different than other things. There are known offenders who are out in the community who have lost histories of burglaries. And sometimes we -- but that's how we know they're out. (laugh) They go back to the same area where they...
NNAMDILot of callers here. First with Amanda in Washington, D.C. Amanda, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
AMANDAHi. Thank you for taking my call. I am hoping Chief Lanier can talk a little bit about the incident that happened on Adams Morgan Day, which culminated in Officer Fike shooting Parrot the dog. And also, talk a little bit about the training and what you guys are doing to improve the way that MPD treats dogs. Because as I did some research into this incident, it turned up, unfortunately, a lot of that incident were, for example, Digit the dog was shot when her family's burglar alarm went off. Another woman in Northeast had her dog Wrinkle shot when the police came in to look for drug evidence against her grandson. So I'm concerned about the situation, but I know that you've put some fail-safe to the system and some new trainings, and I was hoping you can discuss that a little bit.
LANIERActually, we changed and enhanced the training two years ago. We -- actually, with the assistance of many organizations, Humane Society and others. In fact, part of our, you know, recertification training in firearms range includes a segment on dogs and animal behavior and all of those things. I go through it so I have watched the videos and take that part of the training every time I go. So there's a lot of things we've put in place to try and minimize, you know, when we have to use deadly force against animals. And I have to say 99 percent of the time when deadly force is used against a dog, it is on a search warrant. They are typically in a place where we're doing search warrants for drugs and there are large pit bulls that are attacking and probably trained to do so.
LANIERThe situation with Parrot was unusual. As you probably know, there's a K9 officer involved in that shooting, again, which is unusual. What's behind it? Well, you know, I don't really have all the answers until the investigation is done because I certainly wasn't there.
SHERWOODNow, for a while, there was a problem with officers being up to speed on training on use of the firearm. Is that an issue anymore? Do enough officers get recertified?
LANIEREverybody goes. And, in fact, if you don't go to the firearms range twice a year, you're suspended. I mean, we go up twice a year, and if you don't make it, you're suspended regardless every rank.
SHERWOODIf you have questions with Chief Lanier, call us at 800-433-8850 or you can go to our website, kojoshow.org. You can send a tweet, @kojoshow, or send us an e-mail to email@example.com. Amanda, thank you very much for your call. We move on to Lisa in Washington, D.C. Lisa, you are now on the air. Go ahead, please.
LISAI just wanted to make a comment regarding Chief Lanier's remark earlier in the show where she said that she is not able to speak beyond what's on the booking card regarding incidents, specifically regarding DC9. And I find that completely at odds and a bit hypocritical regarding her comments or considering her comments that she made at the press conference the morning after that incident where she publicly assigned guilt and made some rather inflammatory remarks regarding the five suspects. Allegedly was nowhere in her vocabulary, as it was in yours earlier today, Kojo. And I do believe that her inflammatory remarks have caused a lot of sensationalism around this story. And the last I checked, we live in a country where you are innocent until you are proven guilty. And Chief Lanier has not allowed that for the five suspects in this case. And now she's backpedalling and saying, well, she can't comment.
LANIERWell, I'm not gonna backpedal from anything I say, certainly nothing I say on the news interview. You know, I've got people that are passionate about this case on both sides. And I've gotten a lot of calls from people on both sides. And, you know, there's a 27-year-old man who lost his life and he's got a wonderful family, and it's devastating to everybody involved. And, you know, in terms of my comments at the news conference, you know, I always try my best to stick to a particular script and stay specifically with only the language in the charging document. Sometimes I don't.
SHERWOODIt -- well, are you -- is that -- saying you didn't say something correctly then?
LANIERNo. But, you know, here's the context with which this comment was made. In the interview, when we talked about the charging document that -- what witnesses described as chasing down and attacking, and in witness statements, kicking and stomping the victim. So in the context, what my response was -- to the reporter was, well, why would they chase this guy down like that? It was in response to him putting a brick through the window. So, you know...
SHERWOODThat's when you use the word vigilante. It appeared to be vigilante justice.
SHERWOODCould you -- I would take -- well, I've talked to my son, who's in business in that same area, and I discussed this with him in terms of what would you do if someone attacked your business? And he said he would call 911, which is an...
LANIERWell, we always ask the public not to get involved because it could turn out the other way. I mean, the same thing could happen in the...
SHERWOODGuns could have been pulled.
LANIERYes. I mean the business owners, too. We tell business owners all the time, it's not worth getting hurt trying to chase down somebody who could possibly be armed. So it could go bad in either direction. It's just -- the whole thing is very unfortunate for everybody.
NNAMDIWill you stop trying to get a plug for your son's business in every time we do the show?
SHERWOODI -- you know, I did not name…
NNAMDIOh, I think it's Solly's .
SHERWOODI didn't name S0lly's, the bar on 11th and U.
NNAMDI(laugh) Here is Lisa again. Lisa, here's what's of interest to me on how this thing seems to break down. Are you a patron of DC9? Do you consider yourself friends with the owner and employees?
LISAI do know them.
NNAMDIAnd that's how this thing tends to break down.
SHERWOODAlthough it doesn't devalue their concern about it. I mean, they're concerned about their friends who are involved in some legal wrongdoing. We just don't know what the severity of it is yet.
NNAMDIBut when Chief Lanier said there are passions on both sides of the issue...
NNAMDI…the passions tend to go along with the people who either have friendships on one side or connections on the other side. We got this e-mail from Mark, who says, "I'd like Captain" -- Captain Lanier? -- "I'd like Chief Lanier to talk about punitive responses against bars and nightclubs in the city. I realized that there are some unscrupulous nightclub owners who cut corners and bend the rules. But from what I've heard, the folks at DC9 were generally considered to be straight shooters, whatever that means. Is it fair that these establishments automatically end up going out of business when something bad happens in or around them? I'm thinking of the H Street Martini Lounge. Cliff, the owner, was a solid guy," who had been a guest on this show, too. "But just because someone was stabbed on his premises, the bar was forced to close down. Shouldn't law enforcement lighten up a little bit?"
LANIERWell, I use that authority, and the authority is not to close down or take a license. I don't have that authority. The authority is for 96 hours, emergency closure. And it was created after there was a homicide inside of a alcohol establishment. And so what my role is, is if there is a violent crime where somebody is injured -- and that's the criteria used, typically serious injury -- the emergency closure is for 96 hours. And then it's up to the alcohol control board to make decisions beyond that on the club. So I don't put people out of business. And I use that very lightly. Four years, I think I've used it about six times, seven times.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Lisa, and for your e-mail, Mark. Now here's the part that Tom Sherwood really likes. We're getting back to politics again. The man who hired you for this job, Adrian Fenty, will soon be out of a job himself. He went to bat for you in the Wilson Building to get you the crime fighting tools you asked for. He was supportive of everything, from All Hands on Deck, to the anti-gang plan the Council rejected. What conversations have you had over the years and recently with Vincent Gray, the winner of the Democratic mayoral primary, about policing philosophy in general and your role in it in particular?
SHERWOODKojo so nicely is asking you, is Gray gonna keep you on the job?
NNAMDISee, I knew that's what he wanted to ask.
LANIERI left my crystal ball at home, but -- you know, I've had a lot of conversations with the chairman over the past three and a half years. We interact regularly on, you know, matters that, you know, bring the Council and the police chief together. I have had conversations with them in recent weeks, but, you know, I -- just kind of what my opinion on this is, is that I'm gonna get up and come to work every day until somebody tells me to stop coming to work every day.
SHERWOODDo you want to continue as chief? I think that's a...
LANIERYes, of course.
LANIEROf course. I love what I do.
SHERWOODNow, may I take this a bit further?
NNAMDIYou know -- have you heard anything? What have you heard?
LANIERYeah, what have you heard, Tom?
SHERWOODI -- well, I've heard that he's gonna ask Chief Lanier to stay. Well, he -- during the campaign, when he's asked about Rhee, you know, he would -- I'm not gonna make any decision. I'm not gonna discuss this after November 2. And then if you ask about Chief Lanier, he said, oh, you know, I have a great relationship with her. She's got 80 percent approval ratings. He would say all these nice things. He's given no indication that he's gonna try to change police chiefs. Now I'm not so certain about the fire chief.
NNAMDITom -- Tom Sherwood, all this dealing in both accuracy and scuttlebutt. Here he is.
SHERWOODMost of my scuttlebutt is accurate. When was the last time your police officers got a raise?
LANIER2008, I think, was the last pay raise. The last contract that they had negotiated, five -- four or five pay raises over the course of four or five -- five years. And I think the last pay raise was in 2008.
SHERWOODPart of all that you do, of course, depending on what the rank and file -- how they feel about their jobs -- and I'm not gonna get into Chris Bowman, the head of the FOP, and his complaints about, you know, a variety of issues. But I have been told by people who pay attention to the police department that the city is unwisely not getting to the point here of increasing the pay for the police officers.
LANIERThe city can't do anything because the union filed an unfair labor practice, literally, as the contract negotiations began. And now, it's sitting, waiting to go before a hearing examiner. But I will say this, I don't have the authority to negotiate pay or benefits. So when the comment's made that I'm not fighting to get -- you know, I won't give the officers a raise, what police chief in this country would not wanna give their officers a raise? That's ludicrous. I want my officers to get a raise. But I don't have the authority to negotiate pay and benefits. The pay and benefits are negotiated by the city, not by the police chief. And right now, we can't do anything because the unfair labor practice has been filed, and it's gonna sit. And it's been sitting for two years.
NNAMDIOn now to Lynette in Rockville, Md. Lynette, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LYNETTEHi, Kojo. Thank you for the opportunity to talk today. I was actually calling about 20 minutes ago when someone had called in very opposed to naming offenders, juvenile offenders in the community. And I wanted to share with your listeners a very brief story as to why I think that needs to be reconsidered. First of all, I wanna say I'm a mom of two girls. And I'm a huge advocate for kids. I spend a lot of time helping in the classrooms and volunteering my time. But I do think you get to a point where to protect all our kids, we really need to rethink that whole thing about whether we name juvenile offenders or not.
LYNETTEA year and a half ago, my 9-year-old niece was raped by a 14-year-old boy. After a number of hearings, he was let go completely free because he was a first-time offender and because we was a juvenile. He was back into the community. He went back to the school where nobody knew that he had raped. And he went back into his home. The only restraint that was put on him was to keep a certain distance from young boys, which how that was enforced, it wasn't actually.
LYNETTEDespite my please for my sister to go to the school, to allow others to know that this kid was a rapist, it went unheard. Six months later, he -- she found out -- she got a call from the District Attorney to say he's been rearrested. He had gone on to rape his 12-year-old brother and his 7-year-old cousin. My sister went to that hearing, and she happened to run in the bathroom. In the bathroom, she ran into the mother of the 7-year-old who was crying to her and said, you know, as a family member, she had absolutely no idea that her nephew was a rapist. And how do you deal with the anger and the pain? So my point here is even as a mother, as a huge advocate for all kids, here's another -- here's a kid that is an offender who wasn't named and he went right back out and repeat it and destroyed another family. So...
LYNETTE...I just like to say, I hope those are -- those points are reconsidered not just in the D.C. area but all around this country.
NNAMDISorry about what happened in your family, Lynette. Chief Lanier, is that one of the reasons you think the City Council passed this legislation?
LANIERI think that's why so many people in the community have put so much pressure on the council to do this because there are people who have been victimized by repeat offenders that they didn't even realize we're there. So I think that's exactly the point.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Lynette. Any final issue you like to raise with Chief Lanier, Mr. Sherwood?
SHERWOODI think we've got all the issues covered. I mean, some of the mood of the rank and file is -- I wanna say my experience and I've talked to reporters who cover it more than I do is pretty good, given that, you know, people don't like the people who manage them. I don't like my editors either, so -- but I'm just concerned about this idea that...
LANIERWow. You say that on the radio?
NNAMDIWait a minute. (laugh)
SHERWOODI say it, you know?
NNAMDIHis editors don't like him.
SHERWOODWell, I'm just -- I'm just concerned that the whole -- the police department could be -- the rank and file to be buy into whatever the city is doing.
SHERWOODBut I think when you don't recognize them money wise and other ways (unintelligible)
LANIERI'm -- like I say, I'm all for it. I think we got some of the best -- the best police officers in the country. They do deserve a raise.
SHERWOODRight now, we didn't -- the one thing we didn't get into are these -- the city is paying out millions of dollars in the way the police department allegedly mishandled the protesters over the last couple of years. Do you have any comments on that?
LANIERWell, those cases go back to 2002. They're almost 10 years old. And then, you know, the city has been dealing with large protest and suits around those protests for -- since the '70s. And, you know, we keep modifying our policies based on the outcomes. And, you know, hopefully, we get into a point where that's not gonna happen.
SHERWOODYou know, the IMF demonstrations of -- I would guess, you would -- you're pleased that those have started to fade away.
LANIERYeah. That's a much smaller -- I mean, the protest movement had gotten very large between 2000 and 2002, 2003. So, you know, we don't wanna have confrontations with people in any sense. So I'm glad that everything's been peaceful.
NNAMDICathy Lanier is chief of the Metropolitan Police Department in the District of Columbia. Thank you very much for joining us.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Tom, go out and go forth and multiply.
SHERWOODIt's always great to have a guest who has a gun right in the line of sight in case when you try to ask her a question and she just puts her hand on the gun.
NNAMDIYou should know that the chief comes here to protect me. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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