DC police union head opposed Chief Lanier's decision to eliminate vice units

The head of the D.C. Police Union believes there is a direct link between the elimination of vice units and the surge in crime in the city.

Delroy Burton, the president of the union, came to the Wilson Building Thursday for a meeting with Mayor Muriel Bowser. It is a meeting that was requested by her. Burton would decline to say exactly what was discussed in this meeting.

But in an earlier meeting with D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, Burton told her he thought the decision to eliminate the vice units back in June was a bad idea and the criminals are now taking advantage of it.

"If you have a small marijuana selling operation next to your house, that is a big issue to you," said Burton. "If there is somebody running a prostitution ring right next to your house and all hours of the night, guys are coming in and going out -- guess what -- when there was a district level vice unit, [he] could send his vice unit to go and observe that property, to send an undercover officer in there or to send a confidential informant in there to find out what was going on. We could get a search warrant, we could go in and we could disrupt that operation. Without a district vice unit, you don't have that flexibility."

He said he was against Chief Lanier's idea from the beginning. It is an idea that replaced the vice units with a centralized unit of officers who dress in polo shirts and tan pants and target large scale drug operations and criminal enterprises.

But when those vice units went away, violent crime began to surge. Homicides are up 35 percent when compared to the same time last year and violent crime is up four percent.

According to D.C. police, overall crime is flat -- neither up or down.

But in a news conference Wednesday, Lanier defended her decision to eliminate the vice squads.

"We have a lot of soft resources that I can move from place to place, but I don't micromanage district commanders," she said. "I give them extra resources and then I expect them through knowing and working with the officers that work in those districts and working with the community members that live in those communities to deploy strategies that they feel are most effective."

Chief Lanier said she is beefing up her patrols in the fifth, sixth and seventh districts.