Replacing D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier will not be easy. Chief Lanier has definitely made a positive mark on our city from the time she entered the police force in 1990 as a foot patrolman. She moved up the ranks and in 2006 then Mayor-elect Adrian Fenty named Lanier as his choice for chief.
That was when I first met Lanier. It was suggested to her she meet with a group of LGBT activists and the meeting took place in a private home in Northwest D.C. There were about eight in attendance and one of the major issues on the table that day was the continuation of the award-winning Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU). This was a unit begun by former Chief Charles Ramsey and led by Sgt. Brett Parson. The unit had been recognized nationally as an example of superb community policing. It turned out Parson had worked as a partner of Lanier’s at one time. The meeting was great and we formed a good bond with the new chief, which on my part lasts until today. There were, of course, disagreements over the ensuing 10 years, most of which concerned the staffing of the unit. But Lanier was always open to discussion and negotiation with the LGBT community even when we weren’t always on the same page.
Crime has gone down during her tenure here and she is often rated highest by the community of any public official. There were rumors of other cities wanting to hire her away. I would assume her knowledge and expertise in the area of homeland security is what attracted the National Football League to her. That experience was first attained when in 2006 she became the Commander at the Office of Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism, Office of the Chief of Police in MPDC, overseeing, among other things, the bomb squad and the emergency response team.
So replacing her isn’t easy. But while I am sure there are many good choices across the nation my suggestion to the mayor is she look here within the department. There are six assistant chiefs and others in the department who I am sure could do the job. I have personally had great experiences working with Assistant Chief Peter Newsham, a stand-up officer with a real understanding of the District. In addition to his background in policing that began when he joined the force in 1989 he also holds a law degree from the University of Maryland.
But the person I think should get strong consideration as the replacement for Lanier is Assistant Chief Diane Groomes. She currently heads the Patrol and School Services Division. Groomes is one of the most visible of police officials present anytime day or night to support both the community and her officers. In her role, she oversees all of the officers who respond to 911 calls, which is the largest command on the force. From everything I have seen she has a well-earned reputation of working with all the diverse communities across the District, helping to solve problems in a way that ends up being respected by all.
Groomes joined the Department in 1990 and moved up the ranks quickly. She was named an Assistant Chief by Lanier in 2007. She has been responsible for developing many innovative programs and has always been willing to both review and improve the ongoing education that officers of the MPD are required to have.
Mayor Bowser is now faced with replacing what most consider the two most crucial members of her administration. The Schools Chancellor and the Chief of Police. When she is up for reelection in November of 2018, the performance of city students and the crime level will most likely be big determinants for many voters on whether to give her a second term.
Because no one administration stands on its own feet and there is a continuity over the years the mayor is lucky that in both agencies, MPD and DCPS, there is a strong bench of professionals ready to step up. That shouldn’t stop the mayor from looking across the nation for new talent but it should give her confidence we have people here in the District ready to assume the mantel of leadership if she calls on them to do so.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.