DC police chief ready to tackle NFL’s domestic violence problem

WASHINGTON — When retiring D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier takes her new job as head of security for the NFL, she’ll be tackling one of pro football’s ongoing problems — domestic violence.

After almost 10 years as chief, and 26 years with the Metropolitan Police Department, Lanier’s final day will be Sept. 16, and within days she will assume her new role as Senior Vice President of Security, overseeing all aspects of security for professional football.

In 2014, the National Football League, and Commissioner Roger Goodell took a major public relations hit for the handling of a domestic abuse case, when Ravens player Ray Rice was given a two-game suspension. Surveillance video in an elevator showed Rice punching his then-fiancee, knocking her unconscious, and dragging her body from the elevator.

In August 2014, Goodell acknowledged he had mishandled the situation, and toughened the league’s policies on domestic violence and sexual assault.

“Domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal. They are never acceptable and have no place in the NFL under any circumstances,” wrote Goodell, in letters to team owners and all NFL personnel.

“People look up to football players. They represent so much to us,” said Lanier, in a wide-ranging interview with NBC Washington. “I appreciate the challenge of ‘How do you deal with that as an organization?'”

Without making the direct comparison to football players, Lanier said police officers face around the clock scrutiny.

“It’s one of the few professions, where what you do at home can cost you your job,” said Lanier.

“Even though we’re police officers, and we’re in uniform, we’re people like everybody else, and people are fallible,” said Lanier. “There are going to be issues you deal with, with employees, and the NFL is no different.”

Lanier said cases of domestic abuse involving police officers are very rare, but severely damaging when they occur.

“One officer getting arrested for an incident, it makes the whole police department’s image change,” said Lanier. “I can appreciate the challenge,” referring to NFL players.

Lanier said NFL officials are aware of how any domestic violence or sexual assault cases potentially tarnish the entire league.

“That’s part of what they want to do,” said Lanier. “They want to make sure that that is not something that is harmful to the sport.”

Lanier said she believes the NFL is dedicated to improving the way it handles domestic violence cases.

“I don’t think it’s insurmountable. I don’t think it’s something that can’t change, and I don’t think it’s something that people are not committed to changing, because I think they are.”

Watch NBC Washington’s interview with Cathy Lanier:

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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