Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier says the recent Ferguson-related protests in D.C. are getting to be a “big strain” on the department.

Lanier appeared on NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt today to discuss the protests and the fate of marijuana legalization in the city. She said it takes up to 400 police officers each day to handle the protests, which is ultimately hurting the department’s ability to police neighborhoods.

“It’s very, very expensive, it’s getting to be a big strain on our police departments,” Lanier said.

None of the protests, according to Lanier, have had permits, with the exception of this Saturday’s massive “Justice for All” march to the Capitol. As the Huffington Post noted last week, the D.C. police have taken a progressive approach to protests in recent years, helping to redirect traffic instead of arresting people when demonstrators block streets. Lanier said most of the trouble has come not from the actual protests, but from a small group of people who typically linger after the demonstrations.

Eight people were arrested recently after a crowd blocked I-395 and refused to move when ordered. Lanier said people cannot block traffic for extended periods of time, noting that delaying emergency vehicles puts residents’ lives at risk.

“You can’t back up traffic indefinitely,” she said.

Host Bruce DePuyt also asked Lanier about the recent congressional action to block D.C.’s voter-approved initiative to legalize marijuana from going into effect. There have been some questions as to what the wording of the federal provision in the massive “cromnibus” spending bill actually means. Lanier said she wouldn’t speculate but will wait for D.C. attorneys to tell her what to do.

“Right now, it’s just confusion,” she said.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery