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Lanier: Potential for al-Qaida retaliation 'pretty high'

Thursday - 5/5/2011, 8:54pm  ET

Lanier3.jpg
(WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)

Ask the Chief

WTOP's Mark Segraves speaks to D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier

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WASHINGTON - D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier was a guest Thursday on WTOP's "Ask The Chief" program with Mark Segraves.

The chief discussed the investigation of the off-duty, "reimbursable" police officers who escorted Charlie Sheen the night of his performance. They allegedly traveled 80 mph through the District and ran red lights.

"The good side is at least it wasn't on-duty officers," said Lanier.

A middle manager authorized the escort, she said, probably at the lieutenant level. Police won't disclose the identity of that officer until the investigation is complete.

Police have also upped security in anticipation of "terrorism scenarios" following the weekend killing of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden.

The chance of an attempted terrorist strike is "pretty high," she said.

"We have definitely stepped up our security profile."

A new law will soon "hit the books," allowing D.C. police to ticket pedestrians who litter, Lanier said. This would make it illegal to throw cigarette butts on the ground.

In case you missed it, check out the full audio at right, and this live blog:

10:57 a.m., speaking about D.C. officers shooting a perpetrator brandishing a BB gun:

BB guns and pellet guns are not toys. They look like guns, and they can inflict serious or deadly injury.

It did look like a real gun.

10:56 a.m., speaking about ticketing litterers:

This includes flicking cigarette butts on the ground.

We've had the ability to enforce littering from a moving vehicle. Now the new law will allow us to enforce littering for pedestrians.

I don't know how many citations we've ordered.

10:53 a.m., speaking about DUI breathalyzers:

We are coming to the end of putting together what will be a very, very good process, which will involve audits and checks and balance. We should have that in place in the next couple months.

We want something that works for our officers, but is also scientifically sound.

10:43 a.m., speaking about the police escorts for Charlie Sheen:

The thing that was most troublesome was the whole speed issue, of traveling 80 mph and running red lights.

The good side is at least it wasn't on-duty officers. They had set up off-duty officers as a "reimbursable."

But it wasn't allowable.

I believe I know who gave the authorization, it was a middle manager, at the lieutenant rank. The investigation is not complete. I know who took part in the escort. Nobody is trying to hide anything, they're being very involved.

It's possible police officers would violate policy when they're starstruck by celebrities from out of town. They're people just like everybody.

Any escort has to slow to the legal limit when going through red lights, according to policy.

I found out about Charlie Sheen earlier that afternoon, I believe from a reporter.

10:36 a.m., speaking about Councilmember Catania's recent legislation:

He introduced a bill that would significantly affect police, fire and teacher retirement benefits. We have one of the most conservative retirement benefits in the country.

10:32 a.m., speaking about dropping below 3,800 staffers:

That's probably around September when we'll hit that. We've eliminated 200 civilian staff positions in the past four years.

I'm not just losing officers off the streets, I'm losing police officers to backfill civilian positions.

The key is going to be plugging the hole in 2011 so those recruits can get out on the street in 2012.

There's going to be a little bit of less police presence until we get this situation fixed.

I feel very comfortable with my ability to police the city effectively at the 3,800 mark.

I think this is one of those things we need to put everything we've got into.

10:26 a.m., speaking about staffing levels:

The last time I hired police officers was June, 2010. About 14 retire every month, so we're losing that number of staff.

We haven't had a budget in months to be able to hire.

10:25 a.m., speaking about security following bin Laden killing:

Some of the things I've put in place will remain in place for the forseeable future. The potential for a couple of terrorism scenarios is "pretty high."

"There's a potential for lone-wolf, domestic, radicalized individuals to use this as an opportunity."

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