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Afternoon Read: Is D.C. Police Chief Changing Future of Public Safety?

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    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    FILE In this Nov. 30, 2010 file photo, Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier speaks at the National Press Club in Washington. A lack of funding to hire new officers and a projected increase in attrition has Washington police leadership concerned about the size of the force in the coming years. Lanier told The Associated Press that the department has about 200 fewer sworn officers than it did less than two years, budget problems have stalled recruiting and officers who joined the force during a hiring surge about 25 years ago are preparing to retire en masse. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

    D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier is one of the most beloved figures in D.C. politics.

    Appointed by former Mayor Adrian Fenty in 2007, she is credited with dramatically reducing crime in the most violent parts of the District and fostering positive relationships between police officers and the residents they serve.

    Governing Magazine features Lanier on the cover of its latest issue with the headline “Cathy Lanier Changes Policing in D.C. and Maybe Nation.”

    The article writes that her rejection of zero-tolerance policing that’s driven urban crime fighting for a generation may change the future of public safety.”

    At the January meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors earlier this year, she presented her stats to an attentive audience of mayors: homicide, down 42 percent over the past three years; this year’s homicide clearance rate, above 90 percent; anonymous tips to the police, up sixfold.

    Lanier dislikes the way police departments chase trends; she thinks specific problems demand customized solutions. Nevertheless, Lanier’s claims raise a provocative question: Is everything we know about effective policing wrong? At a time when crime reductions have stalled in most cities and resistance to tactics such as “stop-and-frisk” is rising, the idea that police departments can reduce crime by increasing cooperation with high-crime communities is an appealing proposition. Has Washington, D.C., developed a new, more effective form of community policing, or are Lanier’s achievements -- in the words of D.C. police union head Kris Baumann, an outspoken critic of the chief -- “all smoke and mirrors?” The future of American policing may well turn on the answer.

    The Washington Times takes a closer look at this profile and asks if the glowing profile actually glosses over the facts of crime in D.C.

    While the article glosses over the controversies surrounding some of the chief’s initiatives - referring to the checkpoints that she set up in the Trinidad neighborhood as “tough tactics” rather than what the U.S. Court of Appeals declared them: unconstitutional — it does highlight the department’s strides on the community-relations front.

    Rather than getting flicked off by residents as she did as a sergeant in 1994, Chief Lanier now is invited to residents’ cookouts and implored for photo ops.
    The positive effects of improved community relations can be felt in some of the city’s most crime-ridden neighborhoods, such as Barry Farm, which the article states went from being “murder central” to having one homicide in four years.
    But that statistic may have been subject to a little glossing-over as well.

    A search of MPD’s online crime data shows that 10 homicides have been reported in the neighborhood since July 2008.

    * A train derailed on Friday, prompting Metro to enact a speed restriction due to the extreme heat. The blog not so-subtly called Unsuck DC Metro asked why the speed restriction wasn’t made before the derailment.

    Several sources tell me they think Metro should have had speed restrictions in place long before that train derailed at 4:45.

    "The extreme heat has been going on pretty much all month," said one. "Why did it take a derailment to wake someone up?"

    Another said "Last year, Metro had all trains slow down during the heat wave. I guess they forgot to this year. Oops."

    A scan of past Metro press releases shows it has instituted speed restrictions as a preventative measure during previous extreme heat and did so well before rush hour. (Here. Here.) Metro has even instituted speed restrictions for fallen leaves.

    What happened this time around? The temperature has been over 95 for most of the month.

    Luckily, no one was injured, and again, Metro dodged a bullet.

    * Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie asked Mayor Gray to consider alternative sites for a proposed 15,000 square-foot streetcar maintenance facility in Ward 5, according to The Dcist.

    The site is currently slated to be built on Springarn High School’s Campus, but a group of Ward 5 resident have been protesting the location.

    "[R]esidents of Ward 5 expressed anger and frustration because they perceive that the decision to locate the car barn on the front yard of Spingarn High School was made without sufficient community input, wrote McDuffie. "They are dismayed that a major decision affecting the ward was made without the benefit a Councilmember at the table to represent the community's interests," he added, referring to the fact the discussions surrounding the location of the car barn—which will serve the H Street NE line—were made after former Ward 5 councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. had resigned from office.

    * The Maryland Public Service Commission was expected to rule on a request from Pepco to hike its rates 4 percent for Maryland customers, but the electric provider filed a last minute request to delay the decision another week.

    This would roughly translate to a $5.50 increase for the average resident.

    The Post reports that the Pepco sought the delay because it was still focused on restoring power to residents in the aftermath of the derecho storm.

    * Gov. Bob McDonnell left on a trade mission to Ireland and England Sunday and will return Monday.

    According to The Post, the trip costs an estimated $92,000.

    * Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells says he will be voting against lobbyist Rod Woodson’s nomination to the D.C. Water board of directors, according to LooseLips.

    Wells delayed Woodson's nomination late last month because of a potential conflict of interest over Woodson's representation of a D.C. Water construction contractor.