The Examiner reported this morning that Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier and her inner circle will be sweating at a private gym built next to her office. The news would seem to come at a bad time—as in budget-crunch time.

But Lanier e-mailed City Desk today to issue a full-throated denial. The gym, she claims, is for everyone who works at MPD headquarters, not just the top brass.

“I would like to once again correct misstatements in an Examiner article,” Lanier writes. “The article alleges that MPD is building a private workout space, in a secure location, to be used by top staff. This story could not be further from the truth.”

Lanier says the department is using an existing space that could be used as a “break room, or other purposes” for a communal workout space, and that it wasn’t her idea. “This is being done at the request of our MPD members,” she says.

She claims having a gym at HQ is nothing new. As a matter of fact, there was one in the exact same space once before: “Many people wanted to bring this back; but, due to tight times we chose not to spend money on this route.”  Lanier says the room being used was set up as gym back when Fred Thomas was chief. “All we are doing is putting it back to what it used to be—a place to work out. Minus buying any equipment. “

The chief doesn’t say why they’ve chosen to do all this now. She did say this: “Virtually all police facilities have exercise rooms to allow members the opportunity to stay physically fit. This is a beneficial way to handle the stress that comes with being a police officer.” Lanier goes on to suggest the gym will contribute to the “wellness initiative” the department has been working on, which has spawned efforts like the “MPD Biggest Loser” campaign, which she says helped the department collectively shed 1500 pounds.

(City agencies didn’t immediately have an answer to the big question about all this: How much did it cost?)

Police union head Kris Baumann says he isn’t buying the MPD line. He says there’s no way everyone who works at HQ will have access to the gym. “It’s in an area where only her and her staff are allowed,” Baumann says.

Lanier insists that’s not true: “It is secure from the General Public—not persons who work for the PD.”

Update:An internal document that appears to show security protocols for the fifth floor of MPD’s headquarters refers to there being an area on that floor with a glass door. To get past the door, and the guard posted there, employees must have an ID card. If an MPD officer or employee doesn’t have the proper ID, they have to sign in and wait for the office they plan to visit to be contacted, so they can get approved. If the gym MPD is building is behind the glass, that would seem to restrict access to it.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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