- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 8, 2012

D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier’s urban crime-fighting tactics became the centerpiece of a glowing article published this month in the national Governing magazine.

The article touts a reduction in homicides coupled with an increase in homicide closure rates and tips provided to police as the successes that have resulted from the Metropolitan Police Department’s policy shift under the chief’s watch. Moving away from “zero-tolerance” policies toward a more friendly “community policing” approach was part of Chief Lanier’s strategy — even though she didn’t outright call it community policing at the time for fear officers would balk at the notion, the article reports.

While the article glosses over the controversies surrounding some of the chief’s initiatives - referring to the checkpoints that she set up in the Trinidad neighborhood as “tough tactics” rather than what the U.S. Court of Appeals declared them: unconstitutional — it does highlight the department’s strides on the community-relations front.

Rather than getting flicked off by residents as she did as a sergeant in 1994, Chief Lanier now is invited to residents’ cookouts and implored for photo ops.

The positive effects of improved community relations can be felt in some of the city’s most crime-ridden neighborhoods, such as Barry Farm, which the article states went from being “murder central” to having one homicide in four years.

But that statistic may have been subject to a little glossing-over as well.

A search of MPD’s online crime data shows that 10 homicides have been reported in the neighborhood since July 2008.

Sole sourced

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray held a press event Thursday to unveil a nifty system of credit card readers and TVs that will be installed in the District’s taxicabs as part of a new contract with Verifone.

Not all cabdrivers are pleased with the installation fee and the government telling them how and where to get their equipment. But at least one reporter levied criticism at a narrower facet of the system - riders will view programming only from NBC.

“It’s a huge competitive advantage to one news outlet over others who are equally capable of providing this content, locally, and already do,” broadcast reporter Mark Segraves told the mayor, saying the content should have been competitively bid. “I’m just wondering if that factored into your decision.”

Mr. Gray and company officials said sorry, but they’ve kind of crossed the Rubicon on this one.

“We have a business arrangement with NBC, and it’s a national agreement,” Amos Tamam, a senior vice president for Verifone, told Mr. Segraves.

Mr. Tamam added that “you may not like it,” but ABC went with one of Verifone’s competitors.

“You work for ABC-7, don’t you?” Mr. Gray said to Mr. Segraves, who also works for WTOP and other outlets.

Mr. Gray told everyone to take a deep breath and look at the big picture.

“Let’s focus on what this does for the customer in the back of the cab,” Mr. Gray said. “Those are the features that are really important to us … [the news outlet] seems like an ancillary part of this whole effort to me.”

He then moved on to a question from TV reporter Tom Sherwood — who, the mayor pointed out, works for NBC.

“I work for myself,” Mr. Sherwood shot back.

Tom Howell Jr. and Andrea Noble contributed to this report.

• Matthew Cella can be reached at mcella@washingtontimes.com.

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