Police chief says spike in officer arrests due to aggressive internal investigations

In an interview with ABC7, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier chalked the recent spike in arrests of police officers up to more aggressive internal investigations, but admits officers are vulnerable to other forces, such as economic struggles.

“Our internal affairs division has taken a very aggressive, proactive stance,” Cathy Lanier said. “If you take an aggressive approach like that you are going to catch folks who a cross that line.”

Sixteen D.C. police officers have been arrested and charged with serious crimes in the first six months of this year, according to records from D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier. That’s only one fewer than were arrested in all of 2010.

The alleged crimes include murder, obstruction of justice and scamming an elderly woman.

The bulk of charges stem from domestic violence assaults or domestic violence threats and DUIs or alcohol related arrests, WTOP’s Mark Segraves reported.

“It does concern me,” Lanier said. She said factors such as the tough economy contribute to the alleged offences.

“There is certainly no excuse for committing criminal activity as a police officer, but I realize that officers are vulnerable to it just like everybody else,” Lanier said.

The chief pointed out several of the arrests came after fellow officers complained about colleagues, which she says shows there is not a culture of corruption at the Metropolitan Police Department.

“It's extremely unfortunate that we have people who decided to tarnish the badge that they wear,” Lanier said.

On Tuesday, a police sergeant was charged with stealing $43,000 from an elderly woman. Aisha Hackley, 35, scammed an 85-year-old woman by forging checks she stole from the woman's house while on assignment and cashing them to herself and her son, according to court documents.

Another police officer, Richmond Phillips, is charged with first-degree murder the shooting death of the mother of his child, Wynetta Wright. Their 1-year-old daughter Jaylin was left to die in a hot car.

“It's troubling that there are bad cops; on the other hand, it's reassuring that they're identifying them and weeding them out,” said Phil Mendelson, chairman of the D.C. council’s judiciary committee that oversees the D.C. police department.

Since 2008, 93 District police officers have been arrested. Of those, 31 were domestic violence or domestic assault violations and 21 were alcohol-related, reports Segraves.

Mendelson says the shortage of police officers bodes poorly for the future. He feares hasty hiring could lower the bar for candidates.

“We've stopped hiring which means we're going to start bringing them in in waves, which means we're probably going to relax standards and invite more trouble,” Mendelson said.