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Lanier: Training trumps discipline for D.C. police

Thursday - 6/2/2011, 11:55am  ET

(WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)

Ask the Chief

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


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

Lanier announced police have made an arrest in connection with the Monday homicide on New Jersey Avenue in Northwest.

She also discussed her approach to discipline in the police department, which she believes has become far too "punitive" among "paramilitary organizations." She opts for additional training for officers, in place of disciplinary actions.

Overall disciplinary actions are down since she became chief, Lanier said.

The Joyce Chiang cold case has been closed and the death was ruled "undetermined" instead of suicide, the chief said, adding that the U.S. Attorney's Office asked her not to comment on the reasoning. It is not uncommon to close cases like this, particularly, for example, when the suspect is already serving a life sentence, she said.

The warning period for enforcing littering violations is over, said Lanier. Police will now issue actual citations. Spitting does not count as littering, she added.

In case you missed the program, listen to the full audio at right, or check out this live blog:

10:57 a.m., speaking about Metro and park police officers allegedly using excessive force:

I see very, very few excessive force incidents. I can't comment on those videos, but I think we've come a long way in being professional. YouTube videos can help in assessing if the officer was to blame.

10:56 a.m., speaking about police staffing levels:

The funding is still there for 120 officers in 2012. I'm at 3,856 today. We're keeping our fingers crossed that we can still get some numbers.

With our attrition running around 14, 15 officers a month, I'm getting a little nervous.

10:55 a.m., speaking about off-duty police officers:

They are required to take action even if they're off duty.

10:53 a.m., speaking about open arrest warrants:

Between May 19 and 21, we did an operation with the U.S. Marshall Service and cleared 107 open warrants.

10:47 a.m., speaking about the Charlie Sheen police escort:

We have determined that the Sheen escort was in violation of the policy. It was authorized by a mid-level manager. It was a last minute phone-call because he was running late, and that's why that decision was able to be made.

Internal Affairs is looking at all escorts going back to 2002. Five of those involved celebrities.

10:43 a.m., speaking about a rise juvenile crime:

We made an arrest late yesterday evening in a May 30 homicide. Two kids, 14 and 15, were shot in the 1400 block of New Jersey Ave., NW. We arrested a 26-year-old last night. Hats off to the homicide detectives and the task force that went out and picked him up yesterday.

Juvenile crime is not up, but there is an increase in juvenile arrest. Juveniles represent about 7 percent of all people arrested in D.C. What's troubling is where they used to be over-represented in stolen autos, now that's moved to burglary and robbery carjacking.

10:36 a.m., speaking about disparity between men and women in police discipline:

I've had similar suits from every race and ever gender claiming I've disparaged them. It's not uncommon.

Overall discipline is down since I've come on as chief.

I think the police department for many, many years has been too severe.

Paramilitary organizations have been very punitive when it comes to discipline. I've tried to replace training with discipline.

It's not traditional in law enforcement.

10:35 a.m., speaking about motorcyclists wearing helmets:

They are supposed to, and it comes up every year in Rolling Thunder. I'm not sure how that would look, to pull over people who have come here to honor fallen service members.

10:34 a.m., speaking about an Adams Morgan business that has suffered from graffiti:

Not all graffiti is from gangs. We've had graffiti artists pop up around town for years.

10:27 a.m., speaking about the Joyce Chiang death cold case which was closed administratively:

It was suspected to be a suicide, but the death was ruled "undetermined."

Our press conference was done primarily because the family took it very hard that the police department originally said it was a suicide, which they believe it was not. We wanted to make sure we cleared the name for the family.

There is a suspect, but there are many reasons the U.S. Attorney's Office would decline to prosecute, such as a suspect who is already serving a life sentence. I've been asked by them not to comment on that.

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