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Testimony of Chief Cathy L. Lanier on Attorney General Peter J. Nickles' Confirmation Resolution of 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

Testimony of Chief Cathy L. Lanier on Attorney General Peter J. Nickles' Confirmation Resolution of 2008

Statement from the Metropolitan Police Department

The following statement was presented by Chief of Police Cathy L. Lanier to the District of Columbia Council Committee on Public Safety & the Judiciary, Honorable Phil Mendelson,  Chair, on October 17, 2008, at the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.

Good afternoon, Chairman Mendelson, members of the Committee, and guests. I am pleased to have this opportunity to present testimony in support of the “Attorney General Peter J. Nickles Confirmation Resolution of 2008.” The full text of my statement is available on the Department’s website at www.mpdc.dc.gov.

You have already heard today about some of Mr. Nickles accomplishments prior to his service in the District of Columbia government. I will focus on his accomplishments since he has been serving as the acting Attorney General. Throughout the past year, I have had the pleasure of working closely with Mr. Nickles and the Office of the Attorney General to provide District residents with effective and innovative public safety strategies. It has been an exciting journey that I hope we can continue with the monumental progress we are making. What has most impressed me during this time has been his “get it done” management style and his proven commitment to do whatever is takes to effectively protect our residents and visitors. He has demonstrated to me, time and time again, that he truly cares about the people that we serve and will work tirelessly to improve the quality of life for those who deserve it the most.

Mr. Nickles has provided strong leadership and was a key figure in this City’s efforts to uphold our firearms laws in the case before the Supreme Court, Heller v. District of Columbia.  Even before the Court issued its decision, Mr. Nickles directed efforts to prepare for the District’s response, developing contingency plans for a variety of outcomes.  This directive ensured that the City could respond immediately to whatever decision the Court handed down.  He immediately responded to the Court’s decision by coordinating the government’s strategy to comply with the ruling, while remaining committed to the overarching public safety needs of our city.

Since the ruling, the city has expeditiously moved to implement new laws and regulations for legally owned handguns. Additionally, Mr. Nickles guided the re-evaluation of our laws to ensure not only that appropriate registration procedures were in place , but also that the Districts detectives and prosecutors are equipped with the sufficient tools to charge and  convict people who illegally possess and commit crimes with firearms.

Mr. Nickles has also shown strong support for my Department’s efforts to hold members, regardless of rank, accountable. We have made great strides in keeping all levels of the Department motivated by encouraging a goal-oriented attitude towards law enforcement. He was instrumental in a recent MPD victory regarding my discretionary authority, as the Chief of Police, to demote command staff officials for the betterment and efficiency of the Department. This success has far-reaching implications for the management of MPD. It is very important that I have the ability to reward good work, as well as the latitude to make personnel changes that I deem necessary to better serve the residents of the District of Columbia. He has given unyielding support for a system that supports good performance while also holding people accountable for their deficiencies--balancing rewards and consequences.

Mr. Nickles has also taken a proactive approach to safeguarding the District’s interests through his involvement in the Department’s special event planning process.  He recognizes that events, such as IMF/World Bank meetings, large demonstrations, and the upcoming Inauguration, hold a significant potential to expose the District to litigation and liability costs.  Because of this he committed OAG civil litigation resources to work with MPD and my General Counsel well in advance of these events.  His commitment has demonstrated itself with the OAG’s participation in the review of our mass demonstration standard operating procedures; their active participation in and evaluation of training exercises; and willingness to ensure that my Department is kept up-to-date on all relevant case law developments, both here and around the country.

Although many litigators would have shied away from public support of cutting edge law enforcement tactics such as the Neighborhood Safety Zones (NSZ’s), Mr. Nickles provided leadership and guidance for the initiative. He recognized the immediate threat to the residents of our community and worked tirelessly to provide the legal basis to support this initiative that ultimately helped us stop the violence in Trinidad.  He understands that when public safety is threatened we must be able to explore new ways to fight crime.  Mr. Nickles provided invaluable assistance and support following my decision to move forward with the Neighborhood Safety Zone initiative.   He directed OAG’s legal review of the initiative, and provided legal guidance on our operational plan and its implementation.  He was also directly involved in the defense of the initiative in federal court, a defense that has, to date, been successful in preserving this public safety tool.  Through his actions and his support, Mr. Nickles has demonstrated that he shares my belief that when it comes to protecting our residents, we must be flexible and innovative in exploring new ways to fight crime.  This partnership and coordination is critical to our crime-fighting efforts. 

Mr. Nickles has also encouraged all District Agencies to be more proactive in developing internal policies that streamline their efficiency and update their procedures to be in conformity with current legislative mandates. Of note is MPD’s recent collaboration with the Council and relevant stakeholders to move toward a better functioning service of process system. Under the co-leadership of Councilmember Mendelson and Mr. Nickels the working group has toiled to revise rules and policies governing service of process. These types of collaborations challenge agency heads to become problem solvers and frees law makers to work on more overreaching objectives.

To close, I urge you to move quickly on his nomination. I look forward to continued collaboration with Mr. Nickles as we work to build and support a safe and thriving city.  Mr. Nickles is a true asset to this City and critical asset to me and my department.  Thank you again for the opportunity to present this statement for the record.