FOP responds to Lanier comments on discipline

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So on Thursday we posted in full comments made by Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier from WTOP Radio’s “Ask the Chief” program regarding a story in The Washington Times on complaints by male command staff members of receiving harsher discipline than their female counterparts.

Today we hear from Kristopher Baumann, the chairman of the FOP bargaining unit that represents MPD officers. Mr. Baumann disputes Chief Lanier’s assertion that “discipline is down” during her tenure and presents some numbers to make his case.

Below is Mr. Baumann’s statement to The Times:

Today on WTOP’s Ask the Chief, Chief Cathy Lanier made one of the most bizarre claims of her tenure. Chief Lanier claimed that she has reduced discipline in the Department and instead focused on training to correct misconduct.

Chief Lanier’s claims are without basis in fact. Discipline under Chief Lanier, specifically adverse action, has actually increased according to both the FOP’s records and the Department’s records.

Not only has the amount of adverse actions reported to the FOP increased, it has increased during a period of time where the Department has actively discouraged members to go to the FOP to report adverse actions. Over the past three years Chief Lanier has moved to increase discipline facing officers that have availed themselves of the appeal process (e.g., an officer facing a 15 day suspension appealed the suspension and instead is proposed for termination by the Chief). This is, of course, improper — as it creates a disincentive for individuals to avail themselves of their due process rights, because they fear even more punishment appealing the discipline.

The FOP has fought those violations, but in the interim the Chief has continued to use the tactic to discourage due process. As a result, many officers facing discipline do not come to the FOP for appeals out of fear of retaliation by the Department. At the same time, the number of police officer positions on the Department has dropped by almost 400.

Given less officers and the current system, a reduction in reported discipline would be expected. Instead the number of adverse actions last year, 2010, was greater than 2006 and 2007 (note, because discipline cases often involve incidents 4 months in the past, a portion of the discipline for each year involves prior year incidents) and the number of adverse actions in 2009.

Not only has Chief Lanier increased discipline over time, in 2008 she set a 5 year high in imposing adverse action.

Below are the number of adverse action cases for FOP members where the case was brought to the FOP. Adverse actions include suspensions, terminations, demotions, and fines.

2006: 134 cases

2007: 100 cases

2008: 160 cases

2009: 123 cases

2010: 136 cases

2011: 62 cases (as of May 2011)

The Department numbers are even more stark.

According to the Department, in 2009 there were 252 adverse action cases for all ranks. In 2010 there were 287. See link to the Department’s annual adverse action summaries for 2009 and 2010.

Misleading the public about the conditions in the Department harms everyone. One of the reasons that the Metropolitan Police Department cannot recruit and retain police officers is the toxic relationship between management and the rank and file. Telling the public that officers are being treated fairly and compassionately, while the truth is exactly the opposite only makes that relationship worse.

The FOP is, however, encouraged by Chief Lanier’s comments about training or education based discipline versus punitive discipline. For the past several years, the FOP has advocated a shift to the type of education based discipline systems that have been implemented by progressive police departments throughout the country.

Those systems have proven extremely effective and are popular with both management and rank and file. This is the first time the FOP has ever heard Chief Lanier acknowledge the existence of such systems.

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