After two DC cops were recently arrested, DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier addresses concerned residents

11:22 PM, Jan 9, 2014   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- One D.C. community wants to know what's going on with their police department. That's after two officers from the seventh district in D.C. were arrested last month - one for child pornography and another for allegedly running a prostitution ring out of his home.

In December, former officer Marc Washington was arrested and accused of producing child pornography. A few days later, his body was found in the Potomac River from what Police Chief Cathy Lanier said Thursday was likely suicide.

Also last month, officer Linwood Barnhill was arrested for prostituting teens out of his apartment. 

"I'm alarmed and I'm actually outraged at what is taking place," said one district seven resident to a crowd of about 75 people at a town hall style meeting in southeast Thursday night.

Another resident talked about a loss of trust. "When I was a teenager, a pre-teen actually, I was sexually assaulted on my way to school. I didn't tell anyone. I didn't speak about it. I kept it to myself. So when I hear about someone in the community who we're supposed to have trust in violate that trust it 
concerns me," he said.

The Washington and Barnhill arrests were followed by questions of corruption and cover up that Chief Lanier addressed at the town hall meeting. 

"I don't know that there's any cause for alarm, no widespread corruption, misconduct going on in the seventh district," she said, describing the incidents as "isolated." 

The nearly two hour long discussion was held at the Faith Tabernacle Church and questions from residents ranged from the recent arrests, to police-involved shootings, to what residents described as officers being unresponsive to their complaints.

Lanier urged residents to continue to speak up and report potential officer misconduct.

Still, some said they felt the problems might be deeper. "You say, 'if something doesn't feel right you should say something.' I'm saying something: something doesn't feel right. I hear you saying these are isolated incidents but something inside of me just doesn't feel right," said one woman. 

"If it's a culture issue in seventh district then it needs to be addressed," said another man.

Lanier said, in recent years, the department has taken a tougher stance on policing its own - conducting integrity checks, looking for warning signs of potential criminal cops and enforcing a tougher hiring process.

"Back in 2006, we were hiring about one in ten who applied. Today it's one in 25," explained Lanier. "I can tell you people hired in 2006, many of those would not be hired today."

The chief insisted that her department is doing some self-examining.

"Where did we drop the ball? Did we miss something in the hiring process?" asked Lanier. "We are trying to weed out people before they commit misconduct at this level."

But Lanier also defended her officers.

"There's no gain for myself, the commander or anyone else to have another police officer violate the trust of the community because there's too many cops who come here everyday, work hard and do their job and care about the people they serve," she said.

While many said there's still more work to be done, the chief's words seemed to be received well.

"We should not overly generalize because most of the cops are not pimps and pedophiles," declared one man.

Another woman admitted, "I don't hate police officers. I respect police officers who come in day in and day out and put your life on the line."

But residents add, while police can do a lot, at some point, it is up to them.

As one man state passionately, "Whenever there's a crisis in the community, we know how to pack a joint," referring to the packed church Thursday night. "Don't just come out when there's a crisis," he continued. "If we can pack this church like this everyday then this will be a much better community because we collectively have made it happen."


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