MPD Chief Cathy Lanier

Though it’s budget cut time, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier has received a salary bump. According to public records, Washington’s best-known cop currently makes $230,743 a year, making her one of the city’s top paid administrators.

MPD spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump says her boss’ high salary comes as a result of the chief having “received her 5 percent base retention differential that every sworn member of MPD receives upon reaching 20 years of police service.” But the math on that only works out if Lanier was being paid $219,000 prior to the raise.

In the past, there’s been confusion as to how much, exactly, the chief is paid. When she began her job in 2007, Lanier signed a five-year contract that started her at $175,000, with yearly pay increases of 3 percent, plus bonuses.

In June, MPD told the D.C. Council that Lanier made $212,756 in fiscal year 2010 and would make $219,755 in fiscal year 2011. But in December, during an interview, Lanier confirmed to WTOP that she was actually making $225,813.

According to WTOP’s calculations, Lanier’s salary should have been $210,349 in 2010: “However, the legislation the D.C. Council passed in 2008 recognized the city had been deducting retirement benefits from Lanier’s salary—a fund for which D.C. should have been paying.”

In order to compensate for the mixup, the council raised Lanier’s pay. She also got a longevity raise in 2010, said WTOP, which put her at $225,000.

MPD didn’t respond to a request to clarify whether Lanier was  making $219,000 or $225,000 before this most recent pay increase.

One thing that’s clear: At this point, she makes $30,000 more than Mayor Vince Gray,who brings in $200,000 a year.

Part of the reason Lanier has such plum compensation is she negotiated her contract so that, despite her leadership position, she gets the kind of pay increases and benefits average cops get, plus whatever rewards are doled out to her as chief. The contract is up in September, and could allow her to retire on 71.5 percent of her earnings, which would amount to payments of about  $160,000 annually.

It’s a sweet set-up, and police union chief Kris Baumann sees a problem with that. “It is nearly impossible to explain to D.C. taxpayers that we now have 400 fewer cops on the street and are continuing to lose police officers at an alarming rate, while, at the same time, the chief has increased her compensation by over 30 percent in the past three years,” he says.

It’s also a time when there’s been a series of city scandals regarding six-figure salaries. Somehow Lanier has managed to stay above the fray. Her approval rating and the grueling nature of her job are probably why. But if the ranks of the department continue to dwindle because of scarce resources, it’s possible that won’t continue to be the case.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery