- Lanier (file photo) (Photo: Jay Westcott)
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier went off on Washington City Paper's Rend Smith on TBD's NewsTalk With Bruce DePuyt today. Her ire derives from a Smith blog post yesterday that reported a charge by the Fraternal Order of Police's Kristopher Baumann: That the D.C. Police's Second District captain, Matthew Klein, was moved out of the top spot because he'd exposed a police cheating scandal.
"Rend Smith should be ashamed of himself," Lanier said on TBD this morning. "For Rend Smith to print something that's completely factless, it's beyond me how there are no ethical standards for people reporting things about peoples' lives."
Lanier seemed to go on to challenge Smith's contention that there's been a "spike in burglaries in the police district."
"I mean, I know the chairman of the union, he speculated that he was moved because burglaries were up when in fact Commander Klein's district came in third. So the third largest reduction in crime for the city last year."
She concluded: "So I don't answer Rend Smith."
Lanier recently acknowledged the spike in burglaries in a Washington Times article that Smith linked to in the piece.
This isn't the first time Lanier's publicly gone after Smith, the City Paper's cops and courts reporter (full disclosure: I worked with Smith when I was at City Paper). Last October, she blasted him on the Kojo Nnamdi Show, saying he got the names of two gangs wrong in a piece. Smith got the names from a source and asked the police to confirm them; they refused. Petworth resident Marcus Carpenter told Smith the next day that the names he'd reported — CRT and Taylor Street — were the same ones he'd heard in a meeting with Lanier.
Smith, reached in the field after a great deal of difficulty on this reporter's part, says he tried to get comment from Lanier and police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump. "This is all documented on e-mail," he says. Smith's cell phone battery died several times during the conversation; the last thing I heard him say before the device seemingly crossed the point of no return was "She does answer me." (I'll update if he gets back to me on a reliable line.)
UPDATE 2:58 P.M. Finally had an uninterrupted conversation with Smith!
Smith says that he's spoken to Lanier several times in the last month, most recently on Dec. 30. Baumann, he says, is a source a police reporter can't ignore because members of the Police Department almost never comment on internal politics. "I think I would have difficulty figuring out how to report on internal MPD [D.C. Police Department] politics without going to the FOP," he says. "Baumann is always willing to say stuff that people are saying off the record under his own name."
City Paper Editor Michael Schaffer says the paper stands by its story. "Any smart person who reads it is gonna know that the FOP and police don’t always have the same agenda and that Baumann in particular has been a very sharp critic of Police Chief Lanier," Schaffer says. "Unfortunately," he says, "Baumann's version was the only one the public got."
"I feel like it comes with the territory," says Smith of getting tongue-lashed by Lanier. "I’m a journalist. I try to pick stories that I think are important, and I know that if I do that I’m gonna be the subject of some anger."