(Cathy Lanier poses with Washington D.C. police officers. Photo: Ted Eytan)
A popular police chief is switching jobs this week.
Cathy Lanier – the first ever female police chief of Washington, D.C. – is departing from her role as a public servant and picking up the mantle of head of security for the NFL. She was in charge of D.C. police for 10 years, an incredibly long period of time for a position that – in many cities – often undergoes quick turnover rates.
Her popularity stemmed from a number of factors. The city progressively got safer under her tutelage. Perhaps even more importantly, she gained the trust of D.C. residents through a commitment to community policing.
This style of law and order embeds police officers within communities, ensuring that they become acquainted with the local population while developing and maintaining relationships with community figures. This proactive approach to policing cultivates trust, and has been considered an important strategy for bridging wide gaps between cities and police departments, especially where fissures concerning race, police brutality, and crime have led to historical highs of public distrust.
The NFL’s choice to hire a history-making woman who embodies progressive sensibilities concerning security does seem like a positive step for the scandal-plagued institution.
To reporters, Lanier contextualized her career change:
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?
Keeping sports fans safe certainly contributes to the social good. But it will take the NFL more than the Lanier appointment to fully rehabilitate its image tarnished by obfuscating the medical risks of football, turning a blind eye to domestic violence, and economically damaging local communities through privileged tax designations.