Washington mayor backs police chief after union's no-confidence vote

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 31, 2015 10:37 AM

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser vowed support for the U.S. capital's police chief on Monday after a police union voted that it had no confidence in her amid a sharp upturn in killings.

Police Chief Cathy Lanier and Bowser have come under increasing public pressure as killings have surged this summer. The District of Columbia has notched 105 homicides this year, the same number as in all of 2015.

Bowser voiced her support for Lanier in a one-sentence statement after the city's Fraternal Order of Police said 97.5 percent of officers who had participated in an online poll had no confidence in her leadership.

“After 25 years of policing D.C. streets, deploying officers and strategies, and building a force of highly qualified officers and leaders, in the good times and the tough times, too, I have every confidence in Chief Lanier,” Bowser said.

Washington is among a number of big U.S. cities seeing an upturn in violent crime. Nationally, crime rates hit half-century lows in 2013 after falling since the 1990s.

Lanier and Bowser, a Democrat, have blamed the rise in crime in Washington on illegal guns in the wrong hands, greater use of synthetic drugs, and repeat violent offenders on the streets.

In a statement on the online poll, the police union said officers were fed up by issues that included lack of manpower, inadequate pay increases and "an inability to fundamentally keep our neighborhoods, our citizens and our officers safe."

Less than a third of the union's more than 3,600 members took part in the survey.

Bowser outlined a $15 million program last week to combat the crime wave. Hundreds of officers were ordered onto streets over the weekend in the city of about 660,000 people.

The District of Columbia has also sharply increased rewards for seized illegal guns.

Big city U.S. police chiefs who met in Washington earlier in August to discuss rising crime said homicides in 35 cities were up 19 percent on average this year.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)