- The Washington Times - Monday, February 5, 2007

A recent series of homicides will provide an early test for acting Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier as she faces D.C. Council confirmation hearings scheduled for next month, say some residents and council members.

“I certainly think the way a city responds to a spike in homicides is an important indicator,” said council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat and chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, which will hold the hearing. “It gives important insight into how the new administration will deal with violent crimes.”

The number of homicides this year in the District as of yesterday was 17, the same as last year at this time. Among them was the series of four killings in less than five hours the weekend of Jan. 27-28. Police have made an arrest in one of the cases, and Chief Lanier announced initiatives to aggressively canvass neighborhoods in the 48 hours after a homicide and to target violent criminals wanted on fugitive warrants.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat, replaced Chief Charles H. Ramsey shortly after being elected in November, in part to implement more community policing in the department, which has 3,800 officers and a budget of about $430 million. Chief Lanier officially took over Jan. 2.

Mary Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, said she was “excited” about Chief Lanier’s appointment, but added she has some issues that need to be addressed.

“I expressed some concerns [to her] that I had about the department,” Mrs. Cheh said. “So when she comes up for confirmation, there’s a number of things I want to talk to her about.”

Mrs. Cheh said she doesn’t think violent crimes such as assaults and robberies get enough attention. She said if they did, the death last year of journalist David E. Rosenbaum — killed by two men suspected of committing a violent robbery and assault two months before — might have been prevented.

“I’m just not happy now with how the department is run,” Mrs. Cheh said. “and I’m hoping she’s going to change some things.”

She plans to ask Chief Lanier, a 16-year veteran and former commander of the department’s Special Operations Division, about her role in handling mass demonstrations. During protests in September 2002, hundreds of demonstrators and several bystanders were swept up in mass arrests, cuffed hand to ankle and detained at the department’s training academy for several hours.

Since her nomination on Nov. 20, Chief Lanier has attended community meetings in every quadrant of the city and has pledged to improve the relationship between police and the neighborhoods they patrol, assign investigations to field teams and improve communication in the department.

However, Leroy Thorpe, a former advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 2, thinks the new chief has not done enough.

“She hasn’t gone out in the community to meet with the players in the community,” said Mr. Thorpe, who plans to testify at the hearings. “Ramsey was a people person. I don’t think this woman is going to be a people person.”

Despite the criticism, Chief Lanier appears to have the support of most of the D.C. Council members.

Ward 1 Democrat Jim Graham called her a “superb selection.”

“Here’s someone who came right up the ranks, totally engaged from Day One,” he said. “She’s been through the fire, and she’s come out on top.”

If the judiciary panel votes to recommend Chief Lanier, her nomination will go before the full council. If the committee votes against her, the mayor must either send down another nominee or seek to dislodge her nomination from the committee.

Council member Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, said he also supports the nomination.

“I’m very impressed,” Mr. Barry said. “I think she’s going to make a good chief.”

Nominees for police chief typically face little opposition in the council. Only serious questions about the candidate’s character or ability to do the job tend to derail an appointment.

“Unless I have very strong objections to individual appointees, I tend to let the captain pick his crew,” said council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican.

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