Lanier: Number of cops fallen below danger level

[Live Blog Below]

WASHINGTON – The number of on-street police officers in D.C. is now below the level the chief of police said would be necessary to avoid “trouble” for public safety.

The total staff level of police officers in the city is 3,830, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said on WTOP’s “Ask the Chief” on Thursday. At least 100 of these are currently in the police academy, with 40 more to support the academy, which drops the total on-street officers below her hard line of 3,800.

At a D.C. council hearing last year, the chief said “we’re going to have trouble” if the police force falls below this line.

“I saw this coming,” Lanier said on Thursday, adding she had “sounded the alarm” to the D.C. government two years ago about the dangers of falling below her hard line.

“It’s harder for me to do what I have to do,” she says. The police chief says she has had to “be creative,” and make sacrifices.

Last summer, she said she was forced to eliminate 200 civilian staff positions in the previous four years due to budget cuts. She had to fill these gaps with police officers, and was not able to keep up with the roughly 14 officers retiring per month.

Before the current academy cadets, the last time she had hired new officers was June 2010.

“I feel very comfortable with my ability to police the city effectively at the 3,800 mark,” she said in May. “I think this is one of those things we need to put everything we’ve got into.”

Lanier also discussed a speed camera tactic the police chiefs of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties employ to catch leadfoots. They put mobile cameras in the zones after known fixed cameras as drivers speed back up.

The D.C. police chief said she will not follow suit.

The end goal is to get drivers to slow down in specific zones, she says. The recent cameras installed around Foxhall Road that Chef Geoff protested have reduced the number of speeding tickets from 42 per hour in the first week to seven per hour now.

Learn more about Lanier’s take on what to do when you’re pulled over, the spike in robberies in D.C. that have spilled over into Maryland and accusations the police department is targeting gay pedophiles. Check out our Live Blog:

WTOP’s Paul D. Shinkman contributed to this report. Follow Paul and WTOP on Twitter.

10:56 a.m., speaking about Occupy D.C.:

We made an arrest yesterday. They chained the doors on a building downtown.

Since National Park Police have been enforcing the camping, it’s been a lot better.

10:55 a.m., speaking about easing handgun registration laws:

I think it’s a good idea to remove some of the restrictions. The 4-hour training is unreasonable, we think. There are a lot of things that will make it a lot easier to get the registration period done.

10:52 a.m., speaking about officer staffing numbers:

We’re at 3,830, but 100 of those are in the academy. We’re below 3,800 on the street. (She had said before this is the bottom acceptable level). “I said this was coming.”

It takes a year to get a police officer ready for full service. We’ve had 11 washouts so far of a class of 100. We also wash out a lot before they get to the academy. “That’s better for us” to identify the people who are joining for the wrong reasons.

We’ve added a polygraph test. I’m not going to try to meet a number and sacrifice quality.

I sounded the alarm for 3,800 two years ago. It’s harder for me to do what I have to do. I have to be creative, and sacrifice things to make up for other things.

10:51 a.m., speaking about the MPD award ceremony:

It’s tonight at Gallaudet, to officers, citizens who have helped fight crime, and our “top cops.”

Community relations, like this one, are key to our success.

10:47 a.m., speaking about Metro buses disobeying traffic laws:

We get complaints, we issue citations.

10:44 a.m., speaking about police rank-and-file officer contracts:

We can’t comment on it, but I sure hope we have one soon. I’d have liked one in 2007, before the police union filed complaints.

10:41 a.m., speaking about online stings that allegedly target gay men:

The task force is out there targeting pedophiles. Anybody who agrees to have sex with a child should be arrested. I don’t care who they are.

This task force has been in existence for many, many years. We are not targeting gay men. We get lots of results from heterosexual websites.

10:36 a.m., speaking about a Prince George’s County councilwoman who was pulled over for speeding in a 55 mph zone:

She admitted to speeding. It’s an officer discretion whether she was given a break, or got one ticket instead of another. I’ve never seen an instance of an officer giving a councilmember a break. If public officials get pulled over, they wouldn’t complain, either.

10:35 a.m., speaking about how to avoid getting stuck up:

The crime problem in D.C. is no different than anywhere else in the country. Don’t walk down the street with your iPhone or iPad, don’t hang your purse on the back of your chair in public.

“Those are the things the opportunists are taking advantage of.”

If you get stuck up, give the person what they want. When a robbery occurs, they want to get your items and get away as fast as possible. You don’t have to look in the person’s face, but you should observe their clothing items, like distinctive shoes, for our sake.

10:33 a.m., speaking about carrying concealed weapons:

There isn’t concealed carry in the District. Retired law enforcement officers are the only ones who can.

10:32 a.m., speaking about D.C. police disobeying traffic laws:

Officers should be wearing their seatbelt. It’s rare I see that violation.

Parking issues has been an issue for 20 years. Parking spaces at police stations are inadequate.

10:25 a.m., speaking about D.C. not using breathalyzers:

The only thing that these kinds of meters are used for is to determine the level of prosecution: DWI or DUI.

We won’t use breathalyzers, we’ll use Intoximeters. We’ve turned management of those over to toxicologists who can analyze it scientifically.

10:24 a.m., speaking about higher crime rates against the transgender community:

Statistics put out recently are just “plain wrong.” We’re very engaged with that community, and the only time they come out to complain are at public hearings.

“We feel like we’ve done everything humanly possible.” We’ve asked the Anti-Defamation League to do a complete third-party study to show us where we’re missing the mark.

“We do more than every other police department in the country we can find,” with the exception for one or two in California.

This isn’t costing the District anything.

10:21a.m., speaking about homicide rate data:

We’re very public about how we put together the rates. The Washington Post story was untrue. The rate system has not changed since I took office. There were not 108 homicides last year, there were 103.

10:17 a.m., speaking about what to do when getting pulled over:

Stay in your car, sit where we can see your hands. My mother still gets “shaken nervous,” even though she has two kids who are officers.

10:14 a.m., speaking about D.C. police cars and officers in Southern Maryland:

Some officers have take-home vehicles. Most are for those who live in the city. That benefits everybody because of their visibility. There are those who live out of the city, like K-9 units or bomb squads. They should be using them for to and from work. Not for personal use.

The officers who get a take-home out of the city rotates, to reduce the number.

10:11 a.m., speaking about drivers speeding up after passing through speed cameras:

We aren’t going to use mobile cameras after these areas, like how Montgomery and Prince George’s county police plan to.

We put up cameras in places that are more prone to crashes. If drivers slow down through those zones, the job is accomplished.

In the Foxhall Road area where Chef Geoff has protested, we had 42 violations an hour in the first week, issuing just warnings. In the first month, we reduced that to 7 violations per hour.

“That’s the goal. I’m not trying to trick anyone.”

10:06 a.m., speaking about a spike in robberies in Bethesda, and allegations it’s the same suspects as in D.C.:

It’s not just Montgomery County, it’s Prince George’s, and throughout the area.

We’ve been working with their undercover teams.

We’ve been seeing a lot of BB gun and pellet guns in these cases. They do that probably because the penalties are less severe if they’re caught with it before they commit a crime. It’s charged the same as using a regular gun if they commit a crime with it.

10:05 a.m., speaking about crime statistics on the D.C. police website that say robbery is up:

That data is two days behind. This last 30 days have had 15 percent less crimes than the previous 30 days.

This data is incorrect. Our daily crime report is from our crime database.

10:03 a.m., speaking about testifying before D.C. Council oversight hearing about recent armed robberies:

We’re definitely on the downside. We’ve dropped it almost in half since our high point of October, 2011. We’re at about 700 robberies and 265 arrests.

“We’re hitting it from all angles,” using community meetings, decoys and hitting all areas of the city.

“There’s still a long-term solution we’re looking for.”

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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