City Desk

Cathy Lanier Won’t Exactly Go Broke if She’s Fired

MPD Chief Cathy Lanier

It's not unheard of for new mayors to fire the police chief that served the previous administration. So, though she's got an 80 percent approval rating, after this year's general election and transfer of  administration, Metropolitan Police Department boss Cathy Lanier could be out. But don't feel sorry for her yet.

Following her unconventional rise to power in 2007 (she was bumped straight  from commander to chief by a reform-touting mayor) the District's first female police chief  signed a winsome contract.

The five-year agreement allowed Lanier to start at $175,000 a year, with yearly pay increases of 3 percent. New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly makes $205,000, but he oversees 50,000 officers and staff compared to Washington's 4,400, so it would seem Lanier got a decent deal.

Her contract also made her eligible for an annual performance bonus doled out by the mayor, and included  standard perks like a take-home vehicle, a cell phone, and moving expenses.

But there was one particularly sweet provision. One that would allow Lanier, in the event the crime fighter was asked to leave, not to  freak out about her financial future.

"Lanier's retirement pension shall be fully vested and fully payable and vested at the maximum level allowable by law, notwithstanding Lanier's age or term of service," her contract reads. That means if presumptive Mayor to-be Vince Gray decides to let her go, Lanier will be able to retire at the ripe-old-age of 43.

Under the agreement, she's entitled to either 71.5 percent of her average highest base pay over the last three years, or "the maximum retirement pension otherwise allowable to members of MPD."  That would leave her (a veteran of 18 years) with the sort of retirement benefits it normally takes at least a 25-year career in law enforcement to earn; 71.5 percent of $175,000, for instance, is $125,000, and since her base pay increased by 3 percent annually, her pension will be even higher. Adding a little cherry on top, if she's fired, she also gets the typical three months of severance pay.

Though that will cost the District a good sum, if anyone deserves a retirement package, it's a hard working police chief who's credited with getting the crime stats down. But is Lanier trying to get similar terms for her top aides?

Almost a year after  she succeeded outgoing Chief Charles Ramsey, Lanier shook things up. Calling it "restructuring," she changed the way the top of the department worked, and also infused it with new blood, rocketing cops she thought talented to high-ranking jobs.

"“Over the past nine months as Chief of Police, I have carefully reviewed the way the Department operates," Lanier said at the time, "always with an eye toward improving our efficiency and bettering the way we protect residents." This meant, for instance, installing six new assistant chiefs.

But for some of the chosen, their quick ascendancy came at a cost. They hadn't moved through the ranks in the standard way, so their positions weren't protected by civil service regulations. They were considered "excepted service," meaning they served at the pleasure of the chief. An incoming chief could bust them down to their previous rank the moment he or she came to power.

Now a new bill Lanier asked At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson to introduce seems aimed at protecting those who got streamlined into top positions. Exactly how is still up in the air. Some say it's a golden parachute for the favored cops; others contend it's merely a way to keep things fair.

While Mendelson introduced the most recent version of the emergency bill in September, Gray (who, after all, is still the D.C. Council chairman) submitted another version at the request of Mayor Adrian Fenty.

The proposed amendment: "The 'Public Safety Retirement Limit Amendment Act of 2010' seeks to declare the existence of an emergency with respect to the need to authorize a sworn member of the Metropolitan Police Department or the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department to receive an annuity of no more than eighty percent of his or her average pay, or eighty percent of his or her basic salary at the time of retirement, whichever is higher."

The bill explains:

"In the past, sworn public safety members have typically retired at the highest rank achieved during their career, meaning members could accept promotions with some certainty as to the level of compensation they would receive upon retirement.

In recent years, there has been a shift from appointing officials to command staff positions based on tenure and more of a focus on appointing the most talented and qualified individuals to these positions, regardless of whether or not those officials are retirement-eligible."

If the inclusion of the fire department seems to make things blurry, the bill goes on to home in on Lanier's command structure.

"Under the current retirement statute, all sworn members are limited to receiving no more than 80% of their basic salary at the time of retirement. However, in several possible scenarios, this provision would essentially nullify years of good service at an elevated rank and position for non-retirement eligible members of the command staff who hold those positions at the discretion of the Chief of Police."

Sent a copy of the legislation, Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Chairman  Kristopher Baumann is bowled over. He says it's a give-away. Baumann—who's butted heads with Lanier over many issues in the past—contends the wording of the bill would allow Lanier's brass to walk away with a huge chunk of their yearly salaries by locking down an 80 percent annuity.

"This is just plain plundering," says Baumann. "This could end up costing the District millions of dollars per individual." He says the high cost wouldn't just be because of the sweet percentage the officers would get. As the cops involved are younger, like Lanier, they'll collect retirement for a longer period.

Mendelson says there's no give-away involved. He says the bill may not be worded "accurately", but that it's really about making sure that Lanier's current brass can factor their current pay into an average when they retire—which won't be now, as there will still be an age requirement.

He does admit the legislation is meant to protect those officers in the event that a new police chief is installed. "They shouldn't be penalized because of a change in government," he says.

Ed Lazere, of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, says he can't tell whose interpretation of the legislation is correct at this point: "I'm not even sure why this is emergency legislation." Lazere finds it suspicious that the council isn't going through the typical legislative process, which isn't as accelerated. He also thinks legislators should be careful about changing police retirement plans at a time when the city is already in trouble fiscally. "You have to be setting aside the money," he says.

Hopefully, all this will be cleared up on Oct. 15, at which point there will be a hearing about the bill. Considering the city is looking at a hiring freeze, things could get complicated. In the meantime, whatever happens going forward, Lanier  herself is likely to do just fine.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

Blog Widget by LinkWithin
  • The Cat’s Pj

    Its cheaper to keep her.

  • tired

    she needs to go.

  • Southeast Resident

    What is wrong with the previous system. It worked. This legislation should be dumped into the trash can. If you can't give it to all, why are you giving it to a select few.

  • Grumpy

    Don't have a problem with her tenure. At least she's trying to protect her 'capos' in the event they all get 'whacked'.

  • tired

    I agree with SE rez.

  • downtown rez

    Lanier's department is excellent.
    The current command structure needs to stay.
    4 years ago MPD didn't even keep track of calls for "shots fired". Unless there was damage to person or property, it's as though the incident never happened.
    'nough said.

  • try2staysanendc

    They are all running scared. Trying to get sweet heart deals for her friends. Lanier needs to go. The public has no ideal what kind of manager she really is. Stay tuned. Her dirty deeds are coming to light. Gray I hope you get rid of everybody and chose your own people. Afterall these are Fenty folks. Can't be trusted. Believe that.

  • try2staysanendc

    Thank u se resident

  • tired

    Are you kidding me this so chief wanting this from her command staff. Mendelson take note if this go through you will be held accountable. As a DC taxpayer I would advise you to do as SE resident and most of us are concern throw this in the trash. We are in a deficient and you are giving money away.

  • tired

    Dwntwn Rez you do not live in the district so please shut your pie hole.

  • downtown rez

    Actually, I do.
    Hence "downtown rez".
    Clever, huh?

  • DCDem

    175 million dollar deficit. We cannot afford this. What is it about deficit does this Council not understand. This kind of spending is not sustainable. These type of deals is reminiscent of Sinclair Skinner and Omar Karim. How many front line employees will have to be fired to accommodate these inflated deals.

    I ask the council to vote NO!!!!

  • LOL

    if she stays or leaves, she is expensive.

  • http://deleted TripLBee

    CityPaper is trying to stir up trouble by speculating that Gray may fire Lanier.It aint gonna happen. She's doing a decent job and, unlike her counterpart in DCPS, she's not running around trashing her employees and trying to make a name for herself.

  • Jason

    Maybe it's a little much, but you HAVE to be able to make the best people want to move up. I'm just tired of the oldest people filling the tops jobs. But no reasonable younger officer with skills and good ideas should be asked to risk his or her income, security, etc in order to move up and make a difference. Who would choose family over department? We might not always like who gets tapped to move up, but look, its not about that. Hold the Chiefs accountable for who they pick, but don't penalize those who do. And please, please don't go back to the most senior cop or best fireman runs the department or division or unit or whatever.

  • incredulous

    The Asbury Park Press in NJ ran data on public employee retirements. State police have been retiring and a media age of 51,to collect pensions of $60K each, with a life expectancy of 30 years. So that's close to $2million each.
    Local cops retire with about the same pension, but ten years older, on average. The post-tax value of those pensions on whether they've pulled off the scam of MoCo, MD cops, the supermajority of whom retire with partial or full disability, avoiding taxation of the benefit.

    No newspaper ever hires an actuary and hammers home, over and over, the value pension benefits. Which is why journo's retire to fish from the beach and cops retire to fish from their own boats.

  • try2staysanendc

    Say no city council. We can't afford this. Gray pick your own people.

  • try2staysanendc

    @ SE Resident. She's looking out for her people who do not have over 20 years. It worked for previous chiefs. What makes her so special? This is the price that they will pay when dealing with the devil. Sick of this crap. Get rid of them all.

  • Keith Jarrell

    Chief Lanier deserves every nickel she gets and certainly everything she might get in retirement. If she were to be paid hourly, her wages would have been through the roof due to her tireless energy and dedication to her job and that of her department.
    Writers keep asking Baumann to weight in and this man is both inexperienced and clueless. He has about as much intelligence as a 7 year old. Always fighting the system that Lanier and her top Command Staff has established.
    I would suggest that Baumann needs to go back on the streets and learn what policing is really all about.

  • RetiredDCCop

    It is obvious from the reported response from Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Chairman Baumann that he is completely unaware of the current provision in the law governing DC Police retirement that caps a member's pension at 80% of his/her pay at the time of retirement rather than at 80% of his/her highest average pay over 36 consecutive months for Tier 2 and Tier 3 officers and 12 months for those officers still serving under Tier 1 (hired prior to 1980). Chairman Baumann needs to know that this law affects bargaining unit members and senior officials in the same manner. DC Police pay either 7% or 8% of their salary (based on when they were hired) into the pension fund and those payments are taxed. So, under the current law, if a DC police officer or supervisor, whether in the bargaining unit or not, was being paid an average salary of $100,000 for the past 3 years and was entitled to 80% of that salary in retirement due to creditable service, his/her pension annuity would be $80,000. But if that same member was demoted to a lower grade position and salary, whether for misconduct or just at the discretion of the Chief of Police, paying only $80,000 per year, that same member's pension would be capped at 80% of the new salary of $80,000, which is $64,000 in annuity, should that member decide to leave the department rather than to stay and work at the lower $80,000 salary level. Under the provisions of the current law, that member would suffer a $14,000 per year reduction in his/her annuity payments even though the member paid into the plan at the higher rate. What Chief Lanier is seeking to do is protect the pensions of ALL DC police officers at the level of the highest 36 months of salary level rather than at the 80% salary at the time of retirement. Chairman Baumann and the FOP Labor Committee should be standing behind this change in the law because members of the collective bargaining unit could find themselves getting robbed of their pensions should they choose to fight a disciplinary action that would reduce their salaries and their pensions.

  • Lee

    Retired DC Cop, obveously you have not been paying attention to what is going on in the Country as it relates to Public Sector Empoyees Benefits. This proposal is irresponsible and Chairman Baumann is correct to object to it. It is a waste of taxpayer money. Those individuals understood that by taking early elevation to those positions, there was a risk that the incoming chief could return them to their civil service rank. For those of you yapping about junior officers who are better performers and that's why Lanier promoted them; demonstrates how little you know about how MPD works. Those individuals are elevated to those positions because, Lanier can contorl them, they are yes men and women. Persons with the requsite time and experience are independent enough to let the chief know when she is wrong and resfuss to go along with illegal and unethical directives. That is why she chose not to promote the Captains with experience and decades of service. Her current staff does not fit that description. The current system is not broken and should not be changed.

    Just to be clear, this legislation is intended to allow the Assistant Chief who is second in command of the department to retire.

    The background is this; that Assistant Chief left the department at the civil service rank of Lieutenant before he was eligible to retire and took a the number two job in Richmond,VA PD a few year ago. Lanier brought him back as an "Expeced Service Employee" basically at-will with no retirement benefits, just the high salary. Now that Mr. Fenty is gone, they are trying to change the rules mid game to help this person. Again, he knew the risk when he decided to leave MPD and go to Richmond before he retird. He knowingly took the risk, then he came back as an Expected Service Employee; he could have asked to be reinstated to his civil service rank of Lieutenant but that would have prevented his appointment as an Assistant Chief; again knowing everything that comes with being expected service he deciced to take the risk. Now they want to change to rules and potentially expose the District to an this large financial obligation at a time of hiring and promotion freezes. I join all the voices that say NO!

  • tformation

    so wait a minute.... Lanier has not been able to come up with a suitable contract and has had her employees working without said contract for the last 3 years... she has suggested taking away members vision and dental benifits after retirement... she has suggested they agree to work with NO pay raise for 5 more years.... she has said she can not come to an agreement with the members because Chris Bowman is one of the 13 people she has to work with. She has said if members wish to retire at 20 or 25 years despite not yet being 50 years of age, they must pay up to 1 million dollars in order to do it... she was able to negotiate HER retirement contract while NOT negotiating with the members for their own contract, and now... the one thing she wants to make sure she does before she leaves, is make sure HER personal staff, is not affected by these decisions she has made over the last 3 years. So THEY will not have to worry about their salaries or positions or assignments during the remaining 8-12 years that they have left to work like the rest of the officers on her Dept do?!?!

    And retireddccop... I mean Lanier.... you say they may have to retire at 80% of 80,000 like that is so bad. Well THAT is 20% more than the max the rest of the members of the Dept can count on, you see they have to change the 80% to 60%. If it good enough for the goose, why isnt it good enough for the gander.

    Lanier needs to focus on retirement benifits and contracts that represent ALL of the 4500 member Dept. To go to the council with an emergency bill that takes care of JUST her friends, buddies, staff when the rest of her members have been working WITHOUT a contract for longer than SHE and her staff have even been in their positions is to disgrace the very members she SAYS she supports.

    This bill SHOWS that she has not been negitiating in good faith with the members because she clearly sees that what they have to endure is not what she wants for HER staff. The biggest mistake the council made was when they allowed Fenty to make her contract/retirement benifits SEPERATE from the contract/retirement benifits of her members. That lead to these last 3 years of no contract for the members. DONT MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE TWICE!!!

  • imnotleavingdc

    Whenever you take a position which job description includes the words "serves at the pleasure of" you make a conscious decision to take a chance that your boss' "pleasure" (or lack thereof) may relieve you of your duties at any time. They took that chance; no golden parachutes deserved. End of story.

  • taxpayer26

    This legislation is incredibly irresponsible. Just like Lee said, those individuals that accepted those promotions knew the risk of being demoted when a new administration took over.
    Sadly, Chief Lanier fostered an administration that encouraged and tolerated acts of retribution and retaliation from the top down. Just like her predecessor, she promoted individuals with little experience and knowledge, which made them easy to control and manipulate. Why else was there no one to speak-up and tell her that suspending the union chairman was an act of retaliation that she could not simply grin off when it came to light.
    I ask that the members of the City Council along with it's Chairman review the complaints filed against Chief Lanier and her command staff for violations of employees rights. Look at the amount of money that the mismanagement in her administration has cost and will cost the taxpaying citizens of the District of Columbia before making their decision.
    In addition, Chief Lanier was not hired to break the law. In view of the fact that she has been found GUILTY of retaliation not once but twice, in my view she has violated the terms of her contract and as such has FORFEITED her right to any retirement benefits. She should be given ONLY what she paid into the system and not a penny more. This action would show her and other department heads that District leaders are serious about enforcing laws designed to guard against retaliation in the workplace. Rank or status should have no bearing on punishment. The damage done to the person retaliated against or forced to answer to an unqualified supervisor is just as great regardless of the rank of the person.

  • taxpayer26

    Chief Lanier's concern for her cronies is really touching. However, I must ask myself, how many of her associates that she fell out of grace with and demoted or demoted "just because" lost retirement benefits because of their reduction in rank for reasons other than misconduct.
    Cronyism must be stopped in it's tracks and this fresh new administration should take the lead. Please, Please, Please, set the tone for ALL department heads by letting them know that retaliation WILL NOT be tolerated. Make it plain that ANYONE breaking the law WILL have a heavy penalty to pay, THEIR retirement benefits. If nothing else gets their attention, this will.
    And PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not approve Chief Lanier's emergency legislation, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Believe me, they DID NOT earn their ranks and cronyism should never be rewarded.

  • Justice4DCTaxpayers 2

    Reminds me of crooks,robbers, pimps and child molesting church fat female and male pastors,uh Bitchup Eddie Long for starters. D.C. cop Katie 'bar no door' Lanier should fear that her salary do not get slapped out of the scenario and MUST forget her chosen scum-bug-coppers from the 'fountain of no-cooth' for favored pensions.
    Kathy and Andy Fenty must have a secret marriage or sham with each other to see who can best 'Screw' the taxpayers of Washington, D.C. My place of birth along with all 6 of my siblings was in D.C. Hospitals and I love some DC but hate poverty pimping Bitchup Preachers and Crooked Chief Cops or Politicians. Suck my &*() and eat my $%*@ please with no condom.

  • SEis4ME

    Even though the perceived drop in crime can't be attributed in whole to Laneir's efforts, I think she is one official who should stay on. Whatever issues she's had, has been relegated to blog posts. She has not, unlike rhee, taken to the national stage to express her consistent disdain for those she employs or the community at large.

    True, she has had some successes but having the supreme court overturn an initiative she fully backed, can't be a good thing. Yet, she has weathered that controversy in a way that Rhee did not.

    DCPS and DCCrime has gotten better. Their critics have shared their respective criticisms. Yet, the disdain and low approval rating is isolated to only one person - Rhee.

    Or are "we people" against crime too even though we approve of her?

  • SEis4ME

    Oh and I'm sure Rend Smith will find a way to say that blacks don't like Lanier and that our vote for Gray was an anti-Lanier vote. that she didn't hold our hands and sing kumbaya enough.

  • try2staysanendc

    @ SEis4Me I normally agree with you on almost ever blog that you rite, but I have to say this time I totally disagree. She needs to go for all of the reasons mention above. She really truly isn't the person you think she is. She's a wolf in sheeps clothing. Her dirty deems are coming out now. Stay tuned.

  • Don M

    With deflation, no pay raise works out to a 40% pay increase.

    The big advantage of paying for health care is you only go when you have a problem, rather than see your doctor whenever you are slightly lonely.

  • What’s the Rush??

    If there is nothing wrong with this sweetheart deal for a select few, then why is it being done as "emergency" legislation??

  • SEis4ME


    Thanks. The reasons mentioned above involve this sweet heart deal and those she got for her people. I'm not sure if that's what you're referring as her dirty deeds. However, if she does indeed have many, I'm not sure why we haven't heard much talk about them. These sweetheart deals aren't enough for me to say she needs to go.

    She didn't negotiate her own contract with herself. Someone approved of these decisions. I say blame them as well.

    But this legislation should not see the light of day.

  • try2staysanendc

    @ SEis4me. Some of the deeds that I was refering to or just some of the ones mention above. The public will be made aware of countless of incidents of her unfair practices against officers who do not agree with her. The council should say no to this bill. The details now are muddy at best, but trust and believe the truth will be made known. BTW I totally agree with you on the Rend comment.So on point

  • Georgiaboy61

    Another "public servant" feeding at the trough, and her supporters have the gall to tell the taxpayer, the poor working stiff saddling with paying for her and her kind, that she "deserves every penny." Not by a long shot. Our elected officials and their cronies in the LE and public safety communities deserve no better benefits than their private sector counterparts, and most private-sector employees will never see the defined pension benefit goodies these public employees will. Lavish benefits such as these have already bankrupted many cities across the USA, most notably in California. The IL public pension fund is $44 billion in the red. What happens when the public sector kills off the goose that lays the golden eggs (the taxpayer)? What then? Public employee pensions should be outlawed, except in cases of disability, and the members of these professions paid a wage just like everyone else, from which to save for retirement.

  • George

    Tar & feathers.

  • Lee

    Georgiaboy61; why are you so angry at the Public Sector Employees? First, defined benefits plans and unions are not the reason those cities in California went bankrupt. They are just the convenient scapegoats. It was the bad spending and policy decision made by their elected officials that caused those problems. Second, if the IL pension fund is under funded, again its becuase the policy and decision makers decided to delay their contributions, thinking that they could make up those diferred payments at a later date and now the economy tanked and they are unable to do now what they should have done years ago. Don't blame the employees, they did not create this problem.

    Third, the decision to work for the government was a trade off that most of the public sector employees made; the same choice that you had. Work for less pay, but have good long term benefits or take the higher paying civilian position with little to no long term benefit. It appears that you chose the latter. Live with your decision! It is individuals like you that flip flop about what you want government to do based on what the current situation is. In bad times, they are a drain on our resources; when bad things happen, like the Coal Mine explosion, the government need to step in and do their job. Why didn't they do something. In order to do these things well the government needs talented well educated people and that requires good pay and benefits in order to compete with the private sector. Georgiaby61, stop complaining because I guarantee that if you got what you're asking for you would complain about that too.

    I do; however, agree with you about Lanier and the proposed legislation.

  • Anothernative

    What happens when the public sector kills off the goose that lays the golden eggs (the taxpayer)? What then? Public employee pensions should be outlawed, except in cases of disability, and the members of these professions paid a wage just like everyone else, from which to save for retirement. @ Georgiaboy61, News flash, if it weren't for those so called public sector employees you're referring to i.e. (Cops)the goose might very well get killed. lets not get it twisted, how do you even make the attempt at comparing (Cops) who dodge bullets for our safty everyday to any occupation out side of that. Chief Lanier has totally disrespected the officers of (MPD) with no contract for her entire tenure as Chief of police and has the unmitigated gall to try something like this. Whats up with that, I say no Mendy. In the mean time you need to check the moral at (MPD), for real.

  • Robert Shapiro

    He pays her to be quiet about sex.

  • Billy Buck

    This dumb broad, along with that witch that allowed cheating on school test scores, are prime examples of why the District of Columbia is morally, ethically and financially bankrupt. D.C. is a black hole for money, a microcosm of Democratic, liberal and socialist mismanagement in every way conceivable. I hope that if we ever do get nuked, D.C. is first and last on the list.