- 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.