As police chiefs are under siege, the most popular unelected official in Washington, D.C., is police chief Cathy Lanier. One public opinion poll pegged her approval rating at 84 percent. “Being a chief of a major city for eight years is way beyond normal,” Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum tells Politico. “The average is three to four years. She's had a remarkable run.” Lanier, 47, has presided over a steadily falling crime rate. Homicides stood at 181 in 2007, when she became chief. They dropped to a historic low of 88 in 2012. The number of murders is climbing, but it's nowhere near what it was. Some parts of the city are still plagued with shootings, robberies and theft, but the city feels safer.
How has she kept her job through three mayors? “Responsiveness is huge,” she says. “Everybody has to be responsive. I give out the cell phone numbers of watch commanders on duty. If someone doesn't get a response from 911, they can call their watch commander.” Her personal style of community relations has been key to her success. Mark Tuohey, a veteran prosecutor who has worked with many police departments and is now counsel to Mayor Muriel Bowser, explains: “Cathy is a good listener. A lot of chiefs don't have that quality. She talks with you, not to you.”