Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

DC Police Chief makes cover of Governing Magazine

So Harry Jaffe, the columnist for the Washington Examiner who is the town crier for the views of the police officers rank and file and their Union chief, Kris Baumann (e.g., "Fight between police department and union gets ugly ") would be shocked to know that DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier makes the cover of the July issue of Governing Magazine, in the story "Cathy Lanier Changes Policing in D.C. and Maybe Nation," about how great she is...

The article, and I would argue that it's over the top, claims that Chief Lanier changed the police department from a zero tolerance policy to one that is more problem and neighborhood oriented, rather than being "arrest first and ask questions later" and that this is not only a quantum change in how "broken windows theory" ("Broken Windows: The Police and Neighborhood Safety" from Atlantic Monthly) is applied to policing, but is a model nationally for how policing should change.

It's still worth reading the article, but there's nothing new for close followers of the goings on of the department.  From the article:

Not everyone shares an enthusiasm for Lanier. Kris Baumann, who heads D.C.’s police union, has clashed repeatedly with the chief. Asked about Lanier’s achievements, he notes that while homicides have fallen significantly over the past five years, between 2006 and 2010, other types of crime such as rape, robbery burglary and theft actually increased slightly. The claim that MPD ended zero-tolerance policing? He simply doesn’t see it.

“I work in the seventh district,” says Baumann. “We didn’t do zero tolerance. We didn’t have enough police officers to do zero tolerance. I don’t know where this is coming from.”

To Baumann, initiatives like All Hands on Deck capture the essence of Lanierism: public relations masquerading as policing strategy.

There’s at least some truth to Baumann’s charges. Washington, D.C., under Chief Lanier hasn’t experienced the broad crime declines of New York City or Los Angeles. The fact that the D.C. police department previously deployed zero tolerance in an indiscriminating form (if, indeed it deployed zero tolerance) speaks poorly of the department’s understanding of police strategy. But in writing off operations such as All Hands on Deck as mere P.R., Baumann is dismissing something important, something that Washingtonians, particularly in the highest-crime sections of the city, seem to crave. It’s a police department that cares for the communities it serves -- that cares and consoles them.

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