Cathy Lanier, the first woman to lead the Metropolitan Police Department for the District of Columbia, announced that she will step down next month to take a new job as the head of security for the National Football League.
The announcement came in a news conference by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. “The NFL is getting a good one here,” said Bowser.
In a statement announcing Lanier’s hire, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said she will supervise all operations and activities of the league’s security department.
“We are excited to welcome to our team an individual of Cathy’s talent and extensive record of accomplishments. Cathy joins us with a well-deserved reputation of being a tremendous communicator, innovator and relationship builder,” said Goodell.
The 49-year-old Lanier joined the D.C. police department as a patrol officer in 1990, rising through the ranks to the top job in 2007. Nearly 10 years as a police chief is an unusually long tenure for big-city departments. As the Washington Post reports, Lanier has been a popular advocate of gun control and community policing:
“The chief’s presence in the community has been ubiquitous. She spoke at community meetings, hugged grieving relatives of homicide victims and answered the most mundane questions posed by residents on Internet bulletin boards. Community leaders had her cell phone number, and she ordered her command staff to be just as available.
“In doing so, the chief built up her own political base that helped her to stave off critics and remain a powerful force in the John A. Wilson Building. Despite a spike in homicides last year, her approval rating suffered only slightly. In a November Washington Post poll, 61 percent of residents said they approved of the chief’s performance, down from 71 percent the year before.”
But Lanier has her critics. For example, the police union held a no-confidence vote last summer as D.C.’s homicide rate spiked after plunging in 2012. She and Bowser point out that less than a third of the force participated in that survey.
Lanier’s career is also a model for young girls. She was a ninth-grade dropout and mother as an early teen before she eventually earned her GED.
Apparently, the NFL job was too good to pass up. She told the Post:
“What’s more important than being responsible for public safety and security than the nation’s capital? Where do you go from here right? When I thought about the NFL, it’s America’s favorite sport and what’s more important than making sure America’s favorite sport is safe?”