D.C. police chief addresses officer misconduct

(WJLA) - MPD Chief Cathy Lanier was in the witness seat on Friday, answering questions as to why so many D.C. cops seem to be breaking the law.

"Citizen complaints are our biggest deterrent," she said.

"We have to assure the public that our officers are following the law," said Councilman Tommy Wells, who chaired the hearing and released police numbers showing that 47 sworn D.C. officers have been convicted of a crime in the last five years.

Most of them are alcohol-related traffic or violence incidents, and the Chief said the Department is now making all recruits take lie detector tests. She is also moving to put body cameras on cops.

"Police agencies across the country are moving to the body camera system because it is one additional way for us to have accountability," she said.

But Chief Lanier also told the Council that sometimes she has no choice -- arbitrators often make her keep bad cops on the streets over a technicality. In the past two years, she says she has been forced to rehire 28 terminated members.

"Being forced to rehire members who are not fit to wear our badge hurts the morale and performance of the entire police department, and does a disservice to the community we are sworn to protect," she said.

Lanier repeated several times that the first line of defense against misbehaving cops is the public:

"Community members calling in and telling us something is not right and alerting us some conduct of a police officer is our first line of defense."