Lanier talks community relations after Dallas sniper shootings

DC Police chief reacts to Dallas shootings, shootings in Baton Rouge, Minnesota (Cathy Lanier, DC Police chief)
'We want to be the best police officer for the citizen' (Russell Mullins, DC Police Union executive steward)

WASHINGTON — D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said her department is increasing security and doubling up shifts after a shooting in Dallas left five police officers dead and seven more wounded.

But simply talking is also an important step, she told WTOP Friday morning.

“Getting around today and talking to police officers and trying to keep them going” was the order of the day, Lanier said.

“We’re still going to do our jobs, and work around the clock, and keeping the officers focused and staying safe is really important,” she said.

She said that officers have resources including employee assistance programs and counselors who will come out to roll calls. But the informal communications are important.

“Really, it’s kind of shoring each other up.”

In addition, D.C. police added officers to teams on the midnight shift as Thursday turned to Friday.

“It doesn’t make you much safer” in a sniper situation like Dallas, Lanier said, “but it makes us a little bit more comfortable.”

Russell Mullins, executive steward of the D.C. Police Union welcomed the added backup.

“We always need more,” Mullins told WTOP. “If we can partner up, if we can ride together, that’s always better. It doesn’t work out that way all the time.”

“I think most police officers would feel a little more safe if they did have a partner with them all the time, you know watching their back, so to speak,” Mullins said.

Mullins said D.C. police officers often have “frustrating” jobs, but they understand the risks.

“It’s not so much fear,” he said. “It’s more, maybe, trepidation, frustration. We want to go out and do our job. We want to do it well. We want to be the best police officer for the citizen. We want to make sure that they’re all taken care of. But there is some concern. You know, ‘Hey, am I going to make it home from work today’?”

Mullins added, “It’s an understanding that we, on a day-to-day basis, have a target on our back — but just more so now.”

Other police departments in the D.C. region have issued statements about the police ambush — the deadliest day for U.S. law enforcement since the Sept. 11 terror attacks — and are planning tributes.

Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. W. Steven Flaherty said police in his department are wearing mourning bands for the next week to honor the Dallas officers.

“There are truly no words to describe the pain we share with law enforcement worldwide in the wake of what took place overnight in downtown Dallas,” he said in a statement.

He said the state’s troopers would remain extra vigilant as they go about their work.

Maryland State Police has yet to issue a formal statement, but posted a tweet Friday morning stating, “Our hearts are with the men, women and families of the Dallas Police Department and the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Police Department.”

Concerns about divide between law enforcement, communities

The shootings in Dallas came after a protest against recent police shootings, particularly in Baton Rouge and Minnesota. Lanier described a similar protest Thursday night in D.C. as “very peaceful — a good-sized crowd,” and she said she knew of six or seven more protests scheduled in the area over the next three days.

But Lanier said she isn’t worried about a similar incident in D.C.

“We have a good relationship with our community, and we’d like to think nothing like that would happen here,” she said.

Lanier said that “community outreach is going on every day” in D.C. Every day this summer, officers are spending time in summer camps and mentoring programs. “All those things we can do to try to build those relationships early on with our kids.”

In the District, the divide between community members and police officers has never been very big, Mullins said.

“We love the citizen interaction, we love to have them understand our jobs,” he said. “We do ride-along programs. We have community events. That’s what we’re about. We’re about community service.”

Still, there are concerns across the country about a growing gap between law enforcement and the expectations of the communities they serve.

“When things like this happen, it sets everybody back,” Lanier said.

Lanier said she had seen footage of people celebrating the deaths of the Dallas officers. She said it was tough to watch “American citizens cheering and celebrating the murder of other American citizens on our streets.”

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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