Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier suspended scheduling provisions in the department's contract with the police union Thursday, allowing her to cancel leave and redeploy officers as she deems necessary.
The tactic, which when invoked by her predecessor was routinely termed a "crime emergency," gives the police chief broad authority to deploy officers "for a declared emergency, for crime, or for an unanticipated event," according to the union contract. It was made as law enforcement officials around the region finalize security measures in advance of the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
It is thought to be the first time that Chief Lanier has made the politically sensitive declaration since she took over the department in 2007.
Former Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey employed the controversial measure several times in response to spikes in violent crime during his tenure in the District, and was widely criticized by union officials who saw it as an attempt to bypass their collective bargaining agreement.
"Declaring an emergency is a huge issue," police union chairman Kristopher Baumann said of Chief Lanier's declaration. "It hasn't been done since 2006."
Mr. Baumann questioned whether the declaration was made in a scramble after poor scheduling, stating that as of Tuesday the department's Internal Affairs Bureau was only scheduled for day work through the weekend.
"If there was a real emergency and a real threat, we as police officers are ready to go," Mr. Baumann said. "At the end of the day, is this really an emergency or are they trying to circumvent the contract?"
When asked why Chief Lanier declared a crime emergency, rather than organizing a pre-planned All Hands On Deck weekend, as has been her favored approach, she replied through a spokeswoman saying, "As I have stated, we have been planning for the 9/11 anniversary and other large events in the city this week for some time. This is just part of our plan. Maintaining a certain sense of unpredictability is essential to the success of any security plan."
At a Wednesday press conference, Chief Lanier said all officers' leave had been restricted over the weekend in preparation for the Sept. 11 events and ceremonies, but she confirmed the move was not part of her signature All Hands On Deck initiative, which puts all available sworn personnel in the department on patrol.
The declaration of a crime emergency suspends the provisions of the police union contract that mandate a two-week notice before changing officers' assignments. Chief Ramsey used it four times to redeploy officers to high-crime areas and institute six-day work weeks.
Under Chief Ramsey, the emergencies were typically declared in response to a surge in violent crime. His final crime emergency, declared in July 2006 for 90 days, cost the District about $14 million.
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