Truth-tellers, liars and equivocators

Is Vince Gray going to fire Cathy Lanier?

September 10, 2010 - 05:00 PM
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Lanier could stick around regardless of who wins Tuesday's primary. (Photo: Associated Press)

People love D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier.

Her approval rating is 80 percent, the best of any government official in the District. Unlike Mayor Fenty's other high-profile pick, Michelle Rhee, Lanier's statistical successes (reducing most types of crime and bringing homicides to a four-decade low) have translated into broad public support.

There's one group that's certainly part of the 20 percent. The Fraternal Order of Police Labor Commitee for the Metropolitan Police Department, led by Kris Baumann, has questioned whether, in fact, crime is down, called for investigations into the department's handling of sexual assault cases, and generally been a thorn in Lanier's side.

The FOP, along with most of the District's other unions, has endorsed Vince Gray for mayor.

It's a simple exercise in the transitive property. The FOP dislikes Lanier. The FOP likes Gray. Therefore, Gray dislikes Lanier.

In the past two weeks, the Fenty campaign has pushed this idea. At the Washington Post debate last week, Fenty suggested Gray would fire Lanier because Baumann backs the council chairman. And today on TBD NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt, Fenty friend and supporter Ron Moten made the same suggestion during his Mo-Down with Gray Senior Adviser Mo Elleithee.

 

Gray, meanwhile, has applied the same stance to Lanier that he has applied to Rhee. He won't make any personnel decisions until after the election, when he has a chance to sit down with department and agency heads.

When it comes to Rhee, there's a widespread consensus that she's gone if Gray is elected. When debating Fenty, Gray has referred to Rhee as "your chancellor." And she has expressed doubts on whether she could work in a Gray administration.

This isn't the case with Lanier. Gray has been complimentary of the chief, even if he has attacked Fenty's record on crime. During an interview today on WTOP's The Politics Program, he gave her a positive review.

Gray has a favorable opinion of Lanier, but politicians have done unprincipled things in the past to gain interest group support. Does the FOP want Lanier gone? Did Gray promise them she would be fired?

After Fenty implied Gray would fire Lanier, we e-mailed Kris Baumann to get his thoughts. Here's his answer (emphasis ours):

I have stated that we need a new, professional command staff. Given the pattern of disregard for constitutional rights (e.g., Trinidad checkpoints, Safe Homes), expensive mismanagement (e.g., continuing AHOD after it was ruled a violation of D.C. law and our contract, retaliation against whistleblowers, failure to provide due process in discipline resulting in reinstatement of terminated employees), corruption (e.g., the Pershing Park investigation regarding destruction of evidence, Department officials under criminal investigation or found to have not been credible when testifying), and the damage to the public trust (e.g., lying about crime numbers, falsifying deployment numbers, failing to respond to FOIA requests, engaging in expensive litigation on losing issues) - I don't think the public or anyone could support the current administration if all of these facts and incidents are brought to light and examined.

In the coming months, many of those issues will be reviewed and adjudicated through court decisions, arbitrations, and appeals. For example: the AHOD arbitration could cost the District $40 million just for 2009 (and there are 3 other years still pending) and the Department just lost two whistleblower cases in the last month before juries.

Vince Gray has never stated he would remove Lanier, in fact, he has made it very clear that he would not make any decisions until he was able to review all facts and information available to the executive.

We backed him because we believe he will look at all of these factors and make the best decision - not because he made any promises.

And during NewsTalk, Elleithee said Gray had made no promise to get rid of Lanier.

A useful comparison can be made to 2006, when the FOP was backing Fenty. The union hated then-Police Chief Charles Ramsey, and Fenty was widely expected to dump the top cop. (Ramsey would eventually resign before Fenty took office.)

Why? It had less to do with the union endorsement, and more to do with Fenty's constant battles with (and criticism of) Ramsey.

If you compare Fenty's treatment of Ramsey to Gray's treatment of Lanier, there aren't a lot of similarities.

Gray isn't making guarantees, but his rhetoric makes it seem likely he'll keep Lanier if she is willing to stay. The Fenty camp's meme that a Gray victory means a Lanier departure is Total Malarkey.

Total Malarkey
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  1. jamietre jamietre

    James T

    Sep 14, 2010 - 09:09:35 AM

    "Lanier's statistical successes" = DC's violent crime rate has almost exactly tracked the national big-city average in the last 4 years. Except in the world of politics, that is not a success, that is the status quo. However, even as I am not a Fenty fan, I think Lanier is among his best appointees. Why? Because she is the only person who has made an effort to respond directly to criticism, to be transparent, and generally act in a professional manner. Even as I think that AHOD is a complete sham, the Trinidad checkpoints were a terrible mistake, and so on, I think that she is guilty more of responding to political pressure from the top to enact feel-good policies as required by the Fenty rule, than of poor leadership. So while I think that things could be better, I also think feel that Lanier has more integrity than average in this administration and could do better in a different mayoral environment.

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  2. Beltway Greg Beltway Greg

    Beltway Greg

    Sep 10, 2010 - 09:11:38 PM

    At this point Adrian Fenty would come to your house and take your trash to the curb to get your vote. Need your garage cleaned? Adrian has the time this weekend. Dry cleaning? Call the Mayor. Shoot some hoops with your kids? Brother Adrian has game. I still believe he'll pull it out in the end, though he has to be one of the most politically tone deaf people I have ever encountered, and win by 4%. If he does win he has to ask his First Lady Michelle Rhee to stick to running the schools and stop the 24-7 X 365 public relations barrage and just do her job sort of like Cathy Lanier.

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  3. BobMichaels BobMichaels

    Bob Michaels

    Sep 10, 2010 - 06:13:09 PM

    Your story starts with the line, "People love D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier." Well, some people, I guess. Would they still love her if they realized that she shut down an entire neighborhood a couple of years ago, questioning everyone who came and went as to "their business" in the area? (This unconstitutional move, however well intentioned, has since been ruled to have been illegal.) Rather than being loved, she should not only be fired, she should be in jail. (But give her a copy of the constitution to study while she's in there. She should start with the 4th amendment.)

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