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Lanier Defends D.C. Police Hiring Standards, Asks For Flexibility In Firings

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D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier is defending the department after a string of high-profile arrests involving Metropolitan Police Department officers.

There was one officer arrested for pimping teenage girls. Another was busted for child pornography. And a third was just arrested for attempting to kill his wife.

The arrests led to an emergency D.C. Council hearing last Friday, where Police Chief Cathy Lanier told lawmakers that despite the officers' alleged conduct, the department has over the past few years created much stricter hiring guidelines. She says that only one in 25 applicants is accepted to the force, and that the force also invested more resources into investigating its own officers.

But despite these efforts, there are issues, Lanier acknowledged. The chief said nearly 50 MPD officers have been convicted of a crime over the past years. The biggest problems, according to the chief, are alcohol abuse and domestic violence.

"Alcohol-related and interpersonal violence that occurs off duty and in the home is probably the single biggest issue facing major city chiefs across the country. So, we have tried a variety of ways to drive those numbers down," she said.

The chief also told lawmakers the arbitration board has made it difficult for her to hold officers accountable for their actions. She says arbitrators have forced MPD to reinstate 28 officers that had been fired by the police department over the past two years.

Lanier says procedural errors in how the officers were fired have often allowed arbitrators to overturn the terminations, and she asked Council members to change the law giving the police department more power in these situations, a move strongly opposed by Kris Bauman, the head of the police union.

He tells WAMU that Lanier "once again failed to take any responsibility for systemic management failures" and "focused her her time complaining about what the Department admits is an unrelated issue — employees that the Department rehired because of due process violations."

And Lanier said one possible solution — both in terms of deterring bad behavior and catching cops who break the law — may be "body cameras," video recording devices that officers wear to record police activity.

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