Outgoing D.C. police chief decries under-incarceration

Cathy Lanier is leaving her job as police chief of Washington, D.C. to become the NFL’s head of security. She is well-regarded in the District and her tenure as chief is considered successful. Were it otherwise, the NFL would not be entrusting her with its top security post.

On her way out, Lanier had some harsh things to say about criminal justice in D.C. “The criminal justice system in this city is broken,” Lanier told the Washington Post. Indeed, “it is beyond broken.”

Often, it’s the left that calls the criminal justice system “broken.” But Lanier was not offering a leftist critique. Instead, she found the system broken primarily because it allows repeat violent offenders back on the street time after time.

Lanier cited the case of an 18 year-old man who last week was on home detention when his GPS tracking device became inoperable. The man then went on a crime rampage that started in Maryland and ended in the District. His crimes included a robbery, a shooting, and a car theft that resulted in a crash that left a bystander critically injured.

According to Lanier, this sort of thing is “happening over and over and over again.” She added:

Where the hell is the outrage? . . . People are being victimized who shouldn’t be. You can’t police the city if the rest of the justice system is not accountable.

Actually, there’s plenty of outrage. Unfortunately, much of it is directed towards the alleged over-incarceration of young black males.

Channing Phillips, the Obama administration’s U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, responded to Lanier’s critique with this statement:

Unfortunately, no system is perfect, and in those isolated instances in which problems are identified, we work with our law enforcement partners to address them moving forward.

That’s big of him. However, Lanier’s complaint is that the problem of criminal behavior by repeat offenders is not “isolated.” Phillips’ statement is a perfect demonstration of the lack of outrage that has Lanier so frustrated.

Phillips is not accountable to residents of the District of Columbia. D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser is.

She concurs with Lanier. The Post points out that Bowser and Lanier jointly raised concern over repeat offenders in the summer of 2015 when homicides spiked. At that time, says the Post, “the increase in killings heightened fear and led residents for the first time in a decade to list safety as their primary concern, ahead of even schools.”

Since then, nothing substantial has been done to address the problem. As Lanier told the Post, the lack of outrage over this state affairs, presumably including the complacency of Obama’s man in the U.S. Attorney’s office, is “a key reason” for her decision to step down.

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