District of Columbia Police Chief Cathy Lanier knows a lot of the anti–Wall Street protesters camped out in Freedom Plaza, a sliver of a park located between Capitol Hill and the White House. Protests are a way of life in the nation’s capital, and Lanier works hard to build a measure of trust with the demonstrators, walking among them and handing out her mobile phone number so anybody can reach her.
“I don’t care who you are,” she says with a laugh. “You’re not going to find me in the office.” Lanier is the District’s first female police chief, and at nearly six feet tall with blonde hair and a ready smile, she has been a very visible presence throughout the city. Since she was appointed chief in 2006, the city’s crime rate has fallen and is on track to have fewer than 100 homicides for the first time since the 1950s.
She is confident she has the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protest under control for now, but watching what’s happening in New York and elsewhere, she is preparing herself, and the force that she leads, for something she fears could become massive and potentially violent.