- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 30, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier has released her plan to overhaul the 3,900-member force in an effort to increase efficiency and cut through some of the red tape that has plagued the department in past years. Most notably, she has collapsed the chain of command put in place by her predecessor, Chuck Ramsey. Now, each of the six assistant chiefs will be in charge of a certain function within the city, as opposed to a region, which should allow officers to be assigned based on need. Chief Lanier is also automating police reports, giving out 400 laptop computers to patrol officers and encouraging community involvement via Internet message boards.

Beginning today, the department will be divided into six bureaus: homeland security, professional development, corporate support, investigative services, international affairs and patrol services and school security. The latter will be run by Assistant Chief Diane Groomes, a 17-year veteran and former district commander. Under Chief Lanier’s new plan, 2,000 patrol officers will be under Chief Groomes’ jurisdiction, and the goal is to make deployment and response easier and more timely.

It will be interesting to see how this new structure will play out once implemented. Placing the responsibility of every patrol officer — arguably the largest and most important part of the department — on one set of shoulders is a risky move. It could easily prove to be too daunting a task for just one person and could leave the MPD open to yet more mismanagement. Similarly, shrinking the senior staff could either get rid of a superfluous “hierarchy,” as Chief Lanier called it, or leave the MPD shorthanded.

We have criticized Chief Lanier in the past for falling short on her promise to move the department forward, but her plan, coming on the heels of a recent crime spike, could be just the boost the department needs. It’s way too soon to pass judgment, of course, because only the weeks and months ahead will reveal whether the chief’s plan is working or not. Until then, we encourage the chief to make crime prevention and street patrols the cornerstones of her agenda. This isn’t just an American city; it’s America’s capital.

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