DC police tactics questioned with murder crisis

Crime is up across the District, especially when it comes to homicides. But D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, the police union and the rank and file have very different opinions on what to do about the crisis.

- We have reported about how crime is up in Washington -- especially homicides. But D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, the union and rank and file have very different opinions on what to do about the crisis.

Most likely by the end of this week, D.C. will reach 100 murders this year -- and it's only August. It is a crime crisis, but Chief Lanier has come up with some tactics to combat crime.

However, the rank and file officers tell me that she is wasting their time with strategies that don't work on the streets. And they want to be freed up to get back to effective police strategies.

After a triple shooting at 7th and O Streets, the police put up a tent that is staffed with two officers 24 hours a day. They mostly just give out brochures.

It has infuriated the rank and file police. They say it is a waste of manpower and they call it the "lemonade stand."

“The idea that we have a triple shooting, multiple homicides in this area, we had three homicides yesterday, one this morning, we’ve had two shootings and it's not even noon, and the idea we are going to put up a pop-up tent and a banquet table that's somehow going to stop crime, that's embarrassing,” said Det. Gregg Pemberton, treasurer for the D.C. Police Union.

In fact, the police union called many of Chief Lanier's recent deployment strategies embarrassing. I asked for her to respond about this on Wednesday.

“To say the strategies are an embarrassment, but effective, I’m good with that,” she said.

The chief defended the so-called lemonade stand.

“It serves a way for the officers to engage with people, and particularly young people that are coming in and out of the rec center as well,” Lanier said.

Another Lanier strategy that frustrates the rank and file is guarding light towers. Every night, these lights are rolled to high-crime areas and one or two cops are assigned to each one every night to guard the lights from vandals.

Some D.C. police officers created an anonymous Facebook page to mock the crime light towers. The page’s cover photo shows Batman, but instead of the bat signal, a light tower is projected into the night sky.

“I can't meet the demand for the requests that I get from people in the community for light towers and they are effective in that they have assisted us in several cases in allowing us to determine identities of suspects when cameras are present and there is low lighting,” said Chief Lanier.

The police union said that another failed deployment strategy is assigning officers to what is called fixed patrols -- meaning they stay in one place for eight hours.

“It looks like what the chief is trying to do is trying to scare people away like scarecrows,” said Pemberton.

The officers actually have to call in for permission before responding to a crime in action.

“Our police officers are highly trained and highly skilled,” Pemberton said. “They need to be able to go out and investigate and do their job, and right now, they are being handcuffed to the corner and told to stand in very fixed locations liked armed guards.”

The police union on Wednesday called on the chief to take put 100 officers back on vice squads in districts to go after the guns, gangs and drugs before crimes are committed. Lanier disbanded vice in June.

“Vice units were very, very effective for drug organizations in the 90s, but they are not as effective today because we need to have those tools and technologies and the advance training,” said Lanier.

The huge spike in murders this year has everyone worried that it is out of control and is only getting worse.

There is no easy answer on how the police should tackle the crime crisis in Washington. But we want to know what you think -- whether you are a police officer, citizen or know what works in other cities. Go on our FOX 5 DC Facebook page or our @fox5newsdc Twitter page to comment on this story. We will use your suggestions in our story on Thursday. 

Here are a few of the many comments we've received on Facebook so far: 

Sherrie Forester “I am a retired officer who spent over 20 years in Vice. I can tell you from my experience that we were part of the community, it was not just about arresting people. You build a rapport, even if you are making arrest in the neighborhood. In turn you build up a wealth of information from informants, so when something happens you know just like the streets know. It's not just about drugs, it's information in reference to neighborhood beefs, guns, robberies, burglaries, homicides, etc. And of course Times have change since the 90's but we had no problem changing with the times. A pool of good informants is kind of like Fox 5 News. If they know you know!!!”
 
Pearce Then – “Remove foot beats from fixed posts. Bring back Vice units, remove 12hr shifts which only makes officers tired for the next day. Remove tents and crime light towers, Police will be proactive again. Let Police be the Police again. That's just to name a few. Even catching criminals for violent acts, they're released the next day. The court system is a joke in DC. They're also to be blamed.”
 
B.f. Caffrey“Forget "going after guns" or "going after the drugs". Go after the criminals. You'll find the drugs & guns as a byproduct. Most crimes are not planned out well in advance, especially assaults, robberies and thefts. They're opportunity crimes. But they occur in the same areas because the criminals live in those areas. Plot which days of week see increases in theft/robbery. Saturate problem zones (by time of day is ideal). Get creative. Get public works/roads to cooperate by diverting traffic for needed construction work in some areas during peak times, even overnight. This can impede the escape or free up a 1-2 block area for faster police response between hot spots. 
 
One item that was successful out here was a staff member scouring all the night-life papers and entertainment flyers to compile a list of venues where people were likely to go Thu-Sat for fun. Look for popular acts at trouble spot venues. Toss in any known "parties" too. Plan accordingly.”
 
James Hastie – “Stop and frisk helped up here in NYC and now that the practice has been discontinued violent crime is on the rise.
 
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