One of the first things Vincent Gray did when he was elected Washington, D.C., mayor in 2010 was to keep Cathy Lanier as police chief. By nearly all accounts, it was also one of the smartest things he's done, says the Washington Post. Crime has continued to fall, and Lanier's popularity has remained remarkably high. District residents think the city and by extension the current mayor are doing an excellent job keeping them safe. All of which has made it difficult if not impossible for Gray's opponents in the April 1 Democratic primary to criticize him on crime.
Some candidates don't even mention the topic in their platforms, and those who do find themselves walking a rhetorical tightrope, trying to challenge Gray's record without blaming Lanier. Council member Tommy Wells, one of Gray's seven opponents, found one way to do it by accusing the mayor of not going far enough to implement some of Lanier's proposals. “It's a third rail to criticize the chief,” said John Roman of The Urban Institute, who follows D.C. politics and studies law enforcement. “She's been as effective as any big city chief can be and is a leader among chiefs around the country. . . . He made a wise decision to keep her.” Washington’s homicide toals — a benchmark for any big city — fell from 181 in 2007, Lanier's first year as chief, to 88 in 2012, a half-century low. There were 104 last year, including a dozen people killed at the Navy Yard.