WASHINGTON - D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said she agreed with outgoing Police Chief Cathy Lanier that the criminal justice system in the city is broken and that there are too many failures and too little accountability.
In her comments to the Washington Post, Lanier said one of the reasons she took a job with the National Football League was due to a lack of outrage over repeat offenders in the city who are victimizing people over and over again.
There were two news conferences held on Wednesday – one in front of D.C. police headquarters and one in front of D.C. Superior Court – that brought a number of city officials out that included the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, the Chief Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and Mayor Bowser.
"There are certainly things that I would like to change about our system,” Bowser said. “For me, I report to the residents of the District of Columbia. They see me at community meetings, they stop me on the street and I'm going to see them at the ballot box. But we know in our system, we are unique in that the prosecutors don't report to the people. They don't report to me either. Judges and others don't, so when we talk about a system, ours is different from everybody else's. While it is imperfect, it is the one that we have.”
Since the District is not a state, the federal government handles several different aspects of the criminal justice system.
The mayor was then asked if she agreed with what Chief Lanier said.
"I agree and I wish that we had a more accountable system so when people think about crimes in D.C., they want to hold their mayor accountable, they want to get answers from the mayor, and unfortunately sometimes I have to call people that report to the President of the United States to get answers.”
At a news conference outside the courthouse, Chief Judge Lee Satterfield said he did not agreed with Lanier that the system is broken, but declined to expand on his opinion.
The U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Channing Phillips also disagreed with the chief.
"I respect her opinion, but I don't believe the criminal justice system is broken,” he said.
Avis Buchanan, the director of D.C.’s Public Defender Service, said the criminal justice system could use improvement and singled out D.C. police.
“Sometimes they don't comply with subpoenas, there have been cases of missing or erased videotaped evidence and other instances that we have been in position to observe over the years,” she said.
Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham will fill Lanier’s position on an interim basis when she leaves later this month. Newsham reacted to the Buchanan's comments and told us we have multiple partners here in the city, we all share in successes and failures and we meet on a regular basis and try to work together.
Chief Lanier told the Washington Post that people are being victimized by repeat offenders and she doesn't see the outrage. In the District of Columbia, there is no bail system. A person arrested for a crime is either released on personal recognizance, placed on high intensity supervision with a GPS monitoring bracelet or they are held in the jail. A judge makes those decisions after weighing all of the facts.
FOX 5 has asked Chief Lanier several times for an interview but she has declined each one.