Interesting comments from Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier on WTOP Radio’s “Ask the Chief” program Thursday regarding a story in Monday’s editions of The Washington Times on complaints by male command staff members of receiving harsher discipline than their female counterparts:
“Well I certainly take any of these lawsuits seriously, so I don’t want to sound like I’m dismissive of the issue. But I will say that nobody wants to be demoted and nobody wants to be disciplined. And some of these folks have already filed one lawsuit that’s been dismissed and now are trying their hand at a second lawsuit.
“And I will also say that I’ve had similar suits filed from every race and every gender on the police department claiming that I’ve despaired treatment against that race and that gender, so it is not uncommon.
“But in terms of overall discipline for the police department, since I’ve been the chief overall discipline is down since prior to taking over as the chief. I made a concerted effort to limit the punitive-type discipline that so often is part of a paramilitary organization and kind of reduce that as much as possible.
“But when it comes to command members, I do have to have command-staff members that I have confidence in that are going to carry out the mission that I set for the police department.”
The host, Mark Seagraves, follows with a question about comments made to “the paper” — by which we know, of course, that he meant to say The Washington Times — about how discipline is less severe now than it was in the past, under former Chief Charles H. Ramsey.
Chief Lanier’s response:
“I think the police department for many, many years has been too severe in terms of chain of command — again, paramilitary organizations tend to be very punitive in terms of discipline.
“I have tried to separate out mistakes and good-faith-effort violations of policy by officers and reinforce that with training rather than discipline where possible. Because if you make a mistake that’s an honest mistake because you don’t understand a particular policy or rule of law, if I discipline you, are you going to understand it any better? Wouldn’t it be more productive to send you some training to make sure you do understand that policy or rule? So that’s the approach I’ve tried to take with discipline since I’ve been the chief. And it’s not traditional in law enforcement.
“But, again, I’ve had complaints from every race and every gender when there’s discipline or demotion that they’re being targeted, and some of these folks have filed multiple lawsuits.”