DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier addresses officer misconduct to DC - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier addresses officer misconduct to DC Council

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D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier defended the hiring practices of the D.C. Police Department Friday calling the standards the most rigorous in decades.

The chief appeared in front of the D.C. Council's Judiciary Committee to answer questions about misconduct on the force following several high-profile arrests.

Only two council members showed up to question the chief: Tommy Wells, who chairs the Judiciary Committee and at-large Councilmember Anita Bonds. Both of them wanted to know more about the department’s hiring practices as well as the number of officers arrested and convicted in recent years.

The chief told the council in the last five years, 47 officers have been convicted of a crime. The vast majority were alcohol-related.

In testimony that went on for over two hours, Lanier called alcohol abuse one of the department’s biggest problems.

She told the council alcohol-related traffic cases and domestic violence in the home the crimes internal affairs deals with the most.

"Alcohol-related and interpersonal violence that occurs off duty and in the home,” she said, “is probably the single biggest issue facing major city chiefs across the country. We have tried a variety of ways to drive those numbers down.”

Lanier told the council the department now uses polygraph exams to weed out problem employees, but there is no science in identifying future criminal behavior.

The chief said the department uses integrity checks to catch officers breaking the law; a set up or sting where officers may be tempted to steal drugs or money.

She also said background checks go far deeper than before.

"Without going back and personally interviewing all the previous employers and supervisors, you may not have all of the information you need to make a good hiring decisions,” said Lanier. “So that’s why our investigators now, with a smaller case load to start off with, they go back and do reference interviews. They do previous employer interviews.”

The chief also told the council the internal affairs section last year opened 380 investigations. 187 of the complaints came from the public.

But Lanier saved her deepest concern for an arbitration system that forces her to rehire cops who she says should not be on the job.

"Another officer who caught individuals urinating in an alley while on duty compelled them to take off their sweaters and wipe up the urine and put their sweaters back on in January,” Lanier said. “The arbitrator ordered the officer reinstated with a year and a half suspension instead of termination.”

Lanier told Wells the law needs to be changed.

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