Cathy Lanier, at 39, is awaiting Washington, D.C., Council confirmation as the city’s first permanent female police chief and one of the youngest leaders to head the department. The Washington Post says her resiliency will be tested as she inherits a police department in a high-crime city that residents say is out of touch with the community. She is already facing extra scrutiny as a white, female chief of a force that is mostly black and male. Running the 3,800-member department requires a commanding presence, stamina and the ability to plan while dealing with the inevitable crises.
The police force is 76 percent male and 63 percent black. Ronald Hampton, executive director of the National Black Police Association and a former D.C. police officer, said picking Lanier was “risky” for Mayor Adrian Fenty. “The chief of police ought to be a person of color,” Hampton said. “We’ve got a lot of white people in these positions, and that becomes problematic for recruitment. You wonder why young kids in the black community don’t want to be police officers.” Meanwhile, Lanier is adding foot patrols in neighborhoods that have been craving them for years and tailoring new crime-fighting programs with input from the community. As a show of support for beat officers, Lanier began a policy that ones who live in the District are the first to have take-home police cars. She is also trying to streamline arduous paperwork. She is starting work early in the morning and winding up late at night, showing up at crime scenes, having endless meet-and-greets with community groups and finding time to spend with her boyfriend, D.C. police Sgt. Jim Schaefer, who inspects city trucks.