WASHINGTON — Police departments need to do a better job of emphasizing community-focused policing and also make better use of technology, Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier said Monday.
Lanier says she has brought reforms in Washington, a city that was once considered “the Murder Capitol of the World.” The chief said that building trust in neighborhoods is a crucial challenge for police officers.
“We train our cops to put up the crime scene tape and push people back,” said Lanier. “But I expect you to give your phone number out to people in the community so they can give you information.”
Lanier said that technology can be an important way to “have a robust presence in every community.”
The D.C. Police Department uses a variety of methods to build relationships with communities including neighborhood listservs and anonymous text tip lines. She also favors abandoning zero-tolerance policing.
“People too often want to judge policing by statistics,” said Lanier. “Using the number of arrests you make is the wrong measure.”
Lanier, in full uniform, spoke before the National Association of Attorneys General annual winter meeting.
Washington has become a model for successful police reform. But not all police departments have been able to implement the reforms Lanier put in place.
“It’s fear of the unknown,” said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, “and the cost of technology.”
Police departments across the country have come under scrutiny for allegedly using excessive use of force. In 2001, a Justice Department review found that the police force in Washington was the deadliest large-city force in the country.
An independent audit last year, however, found that the D.C. Police Department “reduced its use of the most serious types of force, including firearms, even during periods of increased crime in the District of Columbia.”