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Gabrielle Giffords shooting: 3 questions for MPD's Cathy Lanier

January 11, 2011 - 12:29 PM
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Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier on Tuesday appeared on TBD's NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt and discussed crime in the District, the Diane Groomes suspension and the now-infamous Metro attack video. In case you missed the show, we'll try and post some highlights later in the day.

TBD caught up with Lanier after her appearance and talked with her about the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.


TBD: How do police deal with a single gunman, or a "lone wolf"-type, where it's just one shooter with unclear or confusing motives?

Lanier: "Prevention is difficult when you're dealing with that type of person. And suspicious behavior is not criminal in most cases. I think becoming aware of certain people who may have grudges against individuals in the public eye, that is helpful for us, but it's not criminal again. So the best we can do is try and remain aware of who those folks are, remain aware of controversial public figures and do the best we can, as a deterrent, to have high security. But in some of these situations, there's nothing you're going to do to deter. We've had people that have tried to assassinate presidents that are surrounded by Secret Service. So deterrence is not always going to be effective. Then the key is going to be how quickly and effectively you respond and stop that threat from continuing."

TBD: Will this change the way people think about mental illness?

Lanier: "Every time you have a tragedy, it changes the way people think for a short period of time. It's what's the long-term impact going to be, I think is the key. Everybody's going to change the way they think right now, because of what's happened. There's going to be a lot of debates, some that are legitimate, some that are not. But going forward, what is the right answer? I don't know."

TBD: Could anyone who saw signs of possible mental issues done anything to prevent this?

Lanier: "This is the same thing that happened with (James) von Brunn, who was the shooter at the Holocaust Museum. Everybody was quick to criticize the FBI for not doing anything to go after this guy, considering he had very violent rhetoric on his different blogs and things. But it's unconstitutional. You can't go after people for exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech, so you can't have it both ways. The Constitution prohibits and protects free speech, but yet, if something happens with someone who espoused that hatred, then everybody wants to criticize law enforcement for not doing anything about it. So I think people have to understand that there's a balance on what we can do to do our jobs. I actually think respecting people's First Amendment rights is important."


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  1. Guliel Guliel

    Billy Madison

    Jan 11, 2011 - 01:41:24 PM

    Free speech is good, but it might be good to adjust the qualifiers for making credible threats.

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