Cathy Lanier, the new acting police chief of Washington, D.C., is one of a handful of women to head large-city U.S. departments and one of a few white officers to lead forces in largely black cities, says the Los Angeles Times. Lanier may be the first onetime teenage mom and high school dropout to lead a major police department. There have been 250 news media requests to interview her. Lanier’s appointment was a bombshell from new mayor Adrian Fenty. He offered the post to Lanier, 39, a 16-year career officer, three days after he was elected, consulting only his city administrator – and ruffling feathers in the process. Many senior officers were passed over, and some threatened to leave. Fenty said he was looking for new ideas and youthful energy.
Public safety is practically a Lanier family business. Her father was a deputy fire chief;; one brother is a fire captain; another is a police detective in Greenbelt, Md. Lanier, one of the first female officers on the force, says she was sexually harassed early in her career. She faces some big challenges now: “Management is so top-heavy and such a bureaucracy that nothing can be done,” said Kristopher Baumann, head of the Fraternal Order of Police union. Morale is so bad, he said, that “we’re losing 20 to 30 officers every month.” Lanier finally can do something about those ill-fitting police uniforms. “I’ve been wearing these uniforms for 16 years, and they do not fit women,” she said. “For years I’ve been trying to get them to do something about it. Now I can.”